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confidentially speaking

The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 1st February 2024

Sahel-exit will hit security across West Africa

Blue Lines

The stage-managed decision by the military juntas in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger to quit the Economic Community of West African States strikes at the organisation's credibility and at the region's framework for cooperation.

Some downplay its significance in financial terms. Less discussed is whether quitting the bloc will cause political and diplomatic damage. The rebel juntas are being courted by Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey. They may well have to rely on several of these countries for economic support.

Trade analysts point out that leaving the bloc could expose the juntas to higher tariffs and restrictions on the movement of goods. And having been shut out of international markets, the countries will no longer be able to access finance via Ecowas.

Nigeria has described the joint withdrawal as an exercise in 'public posturing' that would hurt their people's economic interests.

Ecowas isn't alone with its fractures. The East African Community, with its customs unions and free-trade areas has been trying a broker a slew of tariff disputes between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. And the Intergovernmental Authority on Development is riven by disputes over Somaliland and the competing claims of the warring factions in Sudan. Holding these regional groupings together will dominate the African Union summit this month.