The exit of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger Republic may weaken the $277.22bn trade of the Economic Community of West African States with the world.
In 2022, total trade volumes, including imports and exports, from the ECOWAS region totaled $277.22bn according to data from the region’s Trade Information System (ECOTIS) portal. The portal which relies on data from the International Trade Center has not been updated for 2023 hence our reliance on 2022’s data.
The multilateral agency (ITC), which has a joint mandate with the World Trade Organisation and the United Nations, gets its data from the statistics body of each country and the United Nations COMTRADE.
The trade figure of the economic bloc is being threatened by a recent move by the military leaders of these countries. The economic bloc has been urging the military regimes to return to democratic rule following their recent suspensions from the bloc following coups in the respective countries.
In a joint statement released in Ouagadougou, Bamako and Niamey by their military leaders, Capt. Ibrahim Traoré (Burkina Faso), Col. Assimi Goita (Mali), and Brig. Gen. Abdourahamane Tiani (Niger Republic), the three countries announced their withdrawal from the regional economic bloc.
Part of the statement read, “After 49 years of existence, the valiant people of Burkina, Mali, and Niger note with much regret, bitterness, and great disappointment that their organisation has moved away from the ideals of its founding fathers and pan-Africanism.”
It added, “Faced with this continuing situation, Their Excellencies, Captain Ibrahim Traoré, Colonel Assimi Goita, and Brigadier General Abdourahamane Tiani, respectively Heads of State of Burkina Faso, the Republic of Mali and the Republic of Niger, taking all their responsibilities in the face of history and responding to the expectations, concerns and aspirations of their populations, decide in complete sovereignty on the immediate withdrawal of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger from the Economic Community of West African States.”
The potential exit could impact the total imports and exports of the economic region, which is meant to form one of the pillars of the African Continental Free Trade Area, with the rest of the world.
Total export from ECOWAS was worth $131.36bn, led by Nigeria’s $63.34bn. Burkina Faso’s export totalled $4.55bn, Mali was $3.91bn, and Niger was $446.14m. Mali’s imports were worth $6.45bn, Burkina Faso $5.63bn, and Niger $3.79bn.
Products mainly exported from ECOWAS include mineral fuels, mineral oils, natural or cultured pearls, fertilisers, cocoa, cotton, rubber, oil seeds, fish, wood, and others.
Aside from being members of the ECOWAS, the three countries are also members of the eight-nation West African Monetary Union. This monetary union also cut off these countries’ access to the regional financial market, and the regional central bank following decisions by ECOWAS leaders after the coups in Mali and Niger. It has since restored Mali’s access, but Niger remains suspended.
Based on ECOWAS’s treaty, member states wishing to withdraw must give a written one-year notice and must continue to abide by its provisions during the year-long period.
However, according to ECOWAS, it is not aware of the withdrawal of the three countries. In a communiqué, the commission said, “The ECOWAS Commission is yet to receive any direct formal notification from the three member states about their intention to withdraw from the community.
“The ECOWAS Commission, as directed by the Authority of Heads of State and Government, has been working assiduously with these countries for the restoration of constitutional order.
“Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali remain important members of the Community and the Authority remains committed to finding a negotiated solution to the political impasse.
ECOWAS Commission, in a swift reaction, said it was not aware of the withdrawal of the three countries, adding that “Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali remain important members of the Community and the Authority.”