6 steps the leaders can take to revive stability and development in west Africa

This 12 months’s summit of the Financial Neighborhood of West African States (Ecowas) takes place in opposition to a difficult surroundings for the regional bloc.

Latest developments within the area have included coups, insecurity and financial instability. Local weather change additionally poses challenges.

Six profitable and two tried coups within the area since 2020 had been adopted by the withdrawal of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger from the bloc. All three had been founding members of Ecowas (in 1975) and are key nations within the Sahel.

The 15-member financial bloc has developed probably the most built-in financial group in Africa by means of a free commerce space, free motion of residents, growth of regional infrastructure reminiscent of roads and a mechanism for battle decision. The bloc additionally has a functioning court docket of justice.

However the bloc and its members face threats to their stability.

Learn extra:
Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger need to go away Ecowas. A political scientist explains the fallout

As a scholar of politics and worldwide relations with experience on west Africa and the Sahel, I’ve beforehand analysed the significance of Ecowas for peace and safety within the area.

Ecowas performed a key function in restoring peace in Sierra Leone and Liberia within the Nineties, for instance.

This 12 months’s summit should start to revive this stabilising function. I’ve recognized six steps the leaders of Ecowas may take:

  • discovering short-, medium- and long-term options to insecurity within the area

  • boosting commerce inside the area and enhancing financial growth

  • tackling drug trafficking

  • adopting local weather change mitigation and adaptation methods

  • creating a blueprint for youth growth and empowerment

  • guaranteeing democratic stability within the area.

Addressing these points is crucial to keep up peace, promote stability and obtain financial growth within the area.

Learn extra:
Scramble for the Sahel – why France, Russia, China and the US have an interest within the area


In the previous few years, there was an improve in conflicts and insecurity in a number of nations in west Africa.

The issues vary from terrorism to farmer-herder conflicts. Some communities have been devastated by insurgency, and the residents compelled to go away their houses.

Knowledge obtained from the United Nations Excessive Fee for Refugees signifies that in 2022, west and central Africa hosted 11.2 million forcibly displaced individuals, together with 7.8 million internally displaced individuals and 1.6 million refugees. A big proportion are from west Africa.

When farmers are displaced, the consequence is meals insecurity. Insecurity goes past borders and have to be addressed collectively.

Inner commerce

A World Financial institution report in January 2024 said that regardless of the potential to provide sufficient meals domestically, a number of nations in west Africa depend on meals imports from outdoors the continent.

The Ecowas leaders should establish methods of boosting native manufacturing. This would scale back unemployment and enhance native financial development.

Drug trafficking

In the previous few years, drug trafficking has soared in west Africa and the Sahel. The UN Workplace on Medication and Crime said that seizures of cocaine within the Sahel elevated from a mean of 13kg per 12 months between 2015 and 2020 to 1,466kg in 2022.

There has additionally been an improve in drug use amongst younger individuals within the area. Medication reminiscent of kush – which is as harmful as heroine and cocaine however prices a lot much less – is devastating communities, leading to hundreds of deaths.

Ecowas leaders should deal with the drug epidemic.

Learn extra:
Niger has minimize navy ties with the US: why that is unhealthy for the Sahel’s safety

Affect of local weather change

Local weather change is making an influence on communities, leading to elevated competitors for sources, violent conflicts and compelled migration in a number of nations within the area.

Whereas Ecowas has taken commendable actions to cope with the influence of local weather change, such because the Ecowas Local weather Technique and Motion plan, extra must be performed about adaptation.

The hyperlink between local weather change and farmer-herder battle, as an example, have to be recognised to stop additional conflicts. Different elements of local weather mitigation reminiscent of early warnings and early actions should even be established.

Ecowas leaders should additionally develop methods for accessing and producing funds for local weather change responses.

Youth growth and empowerment

The west and central African areas have a number of the highest concentrations of younger individuals on this planet. With a median age of 17.5 years, there’s an pressing want for leaders of the nations in Ecowas to develop a blueprint for youth growth.

The coups within the area, which had been supported by hundreds of younger individuals, point out the frustration of younger individuals with the present governance constructions. The current violent riots by younger individuals in Kenya additionally level to deep fissures in a number of African nations.

Democratic stability

Since 2020, there have been six profitable and two tried coups in west Africa. A number of causes, reminiscent of financial instability, insecurity, corruption and exterior interference, have been given.

Ecowas leaders should discover methods of stopping extra coups, beginning with an emphasis on good governance.

Navy leaders have to be inspired and supported to transition to democracy as quickly as doable. Re-establishing communication with the navy leaders is crucial for the steadiness of the Ecowas area.

Learn extra:
Niger and Russia are forming navy ties: 3 methods this might upset outdated allies

How Ecowas leaders can deal with these points

Addressing these points would require commitments and sacrifice.

Key methods could be to chop the price of governance in any respect ranges, deal with corruption, have interaction the youth and develop native capacities.

It will restore confidence within the area’s nations, enhance native productiveness and restore hope among the many individuals.

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