Assessing The Impact of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso’s Withdrawal from ECOWAS on West Africa

Examining the Economic, Security, and Democratic Implications for Ghana.

On January 27, 2024, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger declared their intent to withdraw from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), signaling a deepening crisis in the Sahel region. As a Ghanaian, the repercussions of this decision on our nation cannot be understated. The consequences stretch across various domains, from economic stability to potential threats on democratic values.

Economic Implications:
The coastal states within ECOWAS, including Ghana, now face an increased risk of economic fallout. The fear of contagion from jihadism and political disorder in the Sahel amplifies as the three Sahelian countries part ways. The potential disruption of free movement between these nations could have severe economic consequences for all involved. Ghana, with its vibrant economy, could witness challenges if the flow of people and goods is hindered, affecting trade and economic relations.

Security Concerns:
With the rise of jihadism and banditry in the Sahel, the withdrawal intensifies security concerns in the region. The departure of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger from ECOWAS may lead to a power vacuum, creating conditions for unaccountable regimes. The risk of hostility towards Malian and Burkinabe migrants in Ghana is a valid concern, requiring a strategic approach to maintain both regional stability and internal security.

Democratic Stability at Stake:
Ghana, known for its stable democracy, may face challenges as the political landscape in the region undergoes shifts. With upcoming elections in Ghana and the recent military government in Guinea, the withdrawal of Sahelian countries adds a layer of uncertainty. The potential vulnerability of other regional democracies like Cameroon, Togo, and Sierra Leone must not be underestimated.

Global Repercussions:
The schism within ECOWAS not only poses a threat to regional stability but also impacts Africa’s global partners. The resentment towards increased French military presence, as witnessed in Niger, indicates a broader sentiment against perceived neocolonial influences. Western countries, including the US and European nations, need to address these concerns to prevent the strengthening of narratives favoring alternative global players, such as China and Russia.

Drivers of the Crisis:
The decision to withdraw is rooted in a complex crisis involving economic stagnation, the impact of global events like the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war, climate change, and population growth. Unemployment, especially among the youth, has fueled disillusionment with democracy, making the region susceptible to violent regime changes.

Regional Bodies’ Dilemma:
The inability of regional bodies like ECOWAS to effectively address the challenges faced by member states has led to a growing crisis. The dilemma they face—whether to adhere strictly to principles or compromise for unity—underscores the complexity of the situation. Reconciliation efforts have so far yielded little success, leaving the future of ECOWAS in the balance.

The withdrawal of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso from ECOWAS is a critical development that demands attention and strategic planning from Ghana. As we navigate the potential economic, security, and democratic implications, it is crucial for our nation to engage diplomatically and work towards ensuring regional stability for the collective prosperity of West Africa.