West African trading bloc facing headwinds as three members resign

By our African Marketing Confederation News Team | 2024

Formal and informal regional trade likely to be impacted as Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger give notice of their intention to leave Ecowas.

While the reasons for the nations of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger deciding to leave the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) are political in nature, there will likely be significant economic, business and supply chain impacts – not only for the three countries, but the region as a whole. 


Founded in 1975, Ecowas allows the free movement of its citizens between its 15 member countries and, largely, the free movement of goods. Members of Ecowas include Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire. 

Illustration: Economic Community of West African States

“Ecowas is primarily an economic community and the loss of any member will affect trade and economic development,” says Olayinka Ajala Senior lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Leeds Beckett University in the United Kingdom.  


Writing in The Conversation, he notes that the main impact on the countries will be on the movement of people, goods and services. 


“These countries have strategic importance, especially in food security. Niger is a key source of onions while Burkina Faso exports tomatoes to the sub-region,” Ajala states. He adds that 80% of Niger’s trade is done with Nigeria. 


Tielman Nieuwoudt, an emerging market supply chain and logistics expert, as well as a contributor to Strategic Marketing for Africa magazine, believes the planned exit of the three countries could influence the political and economic landscape of the region. 


“While intra-regional trade within Africa, particularly in West Africa, remains modest, accounting for about 8 to 13%, official figures don’t tell the full story. It is estimated that approximately 75% of intra-regional trade is informal,” he explains. 


Large Nigerian markets serve as hubs for traders 


“Nigériens” (from Niger) are regular shoppers at Nigeria’s Onitsha Main Market in Anambra State and the Alaba International Market in Lagos, where large Nigerian markets serve as hubs for traders offering a range of goods, including high-demand electronics. 


“Similarly, Mali and Burkina Faso rely heavily on the Port of Abidjan and the Port of Dakar. An average of 700 trucks per day travel between Mali and the Port of Dakar. Despite its challenging road conditions, this corridor is a vital trade route for Mali, especially for transporting commodities like cotton.” 


According to Nieuwoudt, Speculation is rife that the three countries could potentially launch their own currency and form new logistical alliances, such as partnering with Morocco for port facilities. 


“The departure of these nations from Ecowas could have far-reaching consequences, not only for the countries involved, but also for the entire West African region,” he states. 


Despite their distinct national identities, Ecowas countries share several cultural, linguistic, and tribal connections that highlight the intertwined nature of the West African region. For example, the Fulani (Peul) ethnic group resides in Nigeria, Mali, Senegal, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Niger. 


According to a report by the Associated Press news agency, Ecowas does not enjoy the support of all West Africans. 


“Some believe Ecowas is fast losing goodwill and support from many West Africans who see it as failing to represent their interests in a region where citizens have complained of not benefitting from rich natural resources in their countries,” AP says in a January 2024 report. 

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    Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
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    Dr Kin did his PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radbond University in Nigmegen, Netherlands. He previously served as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Radbond University in Netherlands.

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