The governments of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso recently met to discuss the formation of a possible federation. Indeed, the foreign ministers of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger met in Bamako, Mali, on December 1 to discuss the possibility of forming a political confederation. The three countries have a long history of cooperation and share many cultural and economic ties.
In recent years, they have also faced similar challenges, including security threats from extremist groups and climate change. More importantly, these three countries are currently ruled by military juntas and have a long history of military coups and political instability.
The ministers agreed to recommend to their heads of state that the three countries form a confederation as a first step toward a federation. A confederation is a looser form of political union than a federation, in which member states retain more sovereignty. The ministers said that a confederation would allow the three countries to pool their resources and coordinate their efforts on issues of common concern, such as security, economic development, and infrastructure. The real question to ask here is what to expect from the union of three poor and politically unstable countries?
Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso are all military regimes ruled by anti-French rhetoric and Russian a sense of approval of Russia as the new liberator from French rule over its former colonies. We are all unanimous on the fact that French interference in the political and economic affairs of its former African colonies has, in fact, never developed West African French-speaking countries whether politically or economically. But to now rely on Russia as the new “partner” to expect economic development is sincerely misguided. Russia is not an economic power. It is only a military power. And yet the military leaders of these three poverty-stricken nations have developed closed ties with the Kremlin.
The reality is that this union is politically and economically unsustainable and unviable. These three nations are politically unstable and infamous for having one of the highest numbers of military coups in the lifetime of a nation. Unfortunately, military coups became a political custom in these three countries. The political instability in these three countries is due to their inability to implement the peaceful transfer of power, which has, consequently, dramatically weakened their institutions and their whole political system. Hence, if these three countries led by military juntas come together to create a federation, how will the transfer of political power take place?
It is important to stress the fact that the economic growth of a country is intrinsically linked to its political stability. There’s no economic growth without political stability. Political stability is a prerequisite for economic growth and development. A politically unstable country cannot grow its economy because political instability creates an environment of uncertainty and risk, which can deter businesses from investing and expanding. Businesses are less likely to invest in new projects or hire new workers if they are not sure what the future holds. This can lead to slower economic growth and higher unemployment.
Moreover, politically unstable countries are highly corrupt. When there is a lot of turnover in government, it is more difficult to hold officials accountable for their actions. This can create an environment where corruption is more likely to flourish. Corruption can divert resources away from productive uses and hinder economic development. The military juntas in Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali have absolute power and do not subject themselves to the democratic process of transparent governance and the system of checks and balances.
This potential federation is a utopia. It is realistically impossible due to the reasons elaborated in this article. And if it were to be implemented, it would not last because the foundations for economic prosperity are simply not there.