ECOWAS Disintegration; Potential Benefits

While we hope that the impending ECOWAS disintegration is averted, let’s look at the Potential benefits that may come with ECOWAS Break Up.

West Africa has been at the center of political unpredictability for a while. At its current height, it could lead to ECOWAS Disintegration. It is still very early in the day to understand if the current divide in West Africa would be amended as the Military Juntas within the zone have organized themselves into a kind of confederation and unanimously threatened to pull out officially from the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS).

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The division started in a series of military coups overthrowing governments within the region. Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali have formed a tripod front unsettling the region as they seem to be tilted towards Russia should a confrontational option be deployed by the main ECOWAS body. With the current fiasco in the organization, ECOWAS disintegration is likely if the trajectory is not checked; all eyes are on Nigeria.

Nigeria is not just the most powerful country in West Africa; Nigeria’s president, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is the Chairman of the ECOWAS. Initially, president Tinubu’s tough stance infuriated the juntas. The situation was worsened when the Nigerian government cut off the electricity supply to Niger.

Earlier, Nigeria used to be the supplier of electricity to the Niger Republic, but ever since, the relationship between the two countries has deteriorated. Nigeria did not just stop the electricity supply; border closure was implemented. At first, the steps were tough on the poorer West African country of Niger, but they seem to be seeking a self-sustainable developmental model to advance their country.

Being that Nigeria is the most powerful block in the ECOWAS, the earlier sanctions could have been intimidating for the military-led countries, which may have motivated their formal moves to leave the union. With three countries opting to leave the union, we could be looking at an era of ECOWAS disintegration, which could be similar to Brexit.

Beyond the unpredictable future that may follow such ECOWAS disintegration, one may see a potential turning point for West Africa and Africa in a potentially arising healthy competition. Nearly everyone may agree that Africa has not fully gained independence. Despite attaining the status of sovereignty and self-governance, most African countries are greatly influenced by former colonial masters.

Until the overthrow of the last elected government in Niger, for example, France has maintained active ground in the country, thereby raising questions on their true independence. It is not in our position to decide what is better for the people of these countries that military men now run; however, paying attention to local sentiment is important in governance.

The current polarization of the region, even though it may unfortunately lead to ECOWAS disintegration, would have some positive impacts. Let’s take a look at these benefits.

The potential Benefits of the ECOWAS disintegration

Healthy Competition: Although it may seem like unity is the ultimate, this is not always the case. Regional growth requires healthy Competition. All of the sub-regions being part of one organization doesn’t make for diverse views and options.

Healthy rivalry is important as it makes each block desire to better the other. Competition between the United States and Russia in modern times has yielded great results. The same is applicable to the competition between China and the United States. We don’t have to be enemies, but we need healthy Competition.

The current regimes in these countries are now working hard to reach self-sustainability. When this happens, and the ECOWAS disintegration materializes, we are going to see a competition, possibly a healthy one. It has already started.

Ever since Nigeria plugged the country off our electricity grid, they have gone for alternatives, including a massive solar electricity project and aiming to go for nuclear energy. When that happens we could be seeing great competition between the block and ECOWAS.

Respect for the People and State Sovereignty: As a matter of fact, the Federal Republic of Nigeria doesn’t have serious issues with Niger if we would respect their sovereignty. It is the duty of the Niger Republic and other such countries where these coups have taken place to rise to the occasion.

The deafening silence among the population can serve as an indicator of their preferences. In the earlier days of the juntas, citizens of Niger were seen demonstrating against the invasion of their country; often showing clear support for the juntas and disregard for France and even ECOWAS, while it can be argued that these demonstrations could be induced. The degree to which it can be proven to be induced is limited. Currently, the people within these now military-run countries seem to be in support.

Border Responsibility: Before the Niger junta fiasco, there was almost no regulation between Nigeria and Niger border. People and goods crossed both sides with almost no restrictions. This has marred several situations in Nigeria; for instance, there used to be an influx of Niger citizens into Nigeria during elections, which underscores the authenticity of the results gotten from border states.

Apart from election scenes, goods that were formerly subsidized to Nigerians make it across these borders, thereby having the Nigerian government pay for these products consumed by citizens of other countries. The limited diplomatic relationship between Niger and Nigeria has led to more attention to our borders. This comes with several advantages for Nigeria.

True Independence for Niger: Apart from the influence of France, Nigeria has been a stumbling block to Niger’s independence. Often the Niger Republic has been regarded by several Nigerians as Nigeria’s 37th state. However, there seem to be some benefits that Niger seems to enjoy through such close relations with Nigeria. It raises questions about Niger’s position as a sovereign or as a puppet state where Nigeria and France call the shots.

These situations may have motivated their government takeover by the country’s military; the development has grown to the extent where these countries want to be independent of even regional bodies, thereby bringing the reality of ECOWAS disintegration. The situation seems like one where these countries are aiming to form a confederation of Military states and now want total independence from every form of external control.

Saves Nigeria Money: Before the estranging of Niger, Nigeria used to spend tons of money to support the poorer country. A railway project connecting Nigeria to Niger was underway. This is even not accounting for billions spent on other support for the country, including former president Buhari’s parting gift to Niger, which saw the delivery of fleets of vehicles. A limited diplomatic relationship with Niger will save Nigeria a lot of unsolicited financial expenditures.

Integrate West Africa in Global Affairs: The world seems to be divided according to some lines. We have the West and the East, the United States and China, the United States and Russia. United States and Iran, the UK and France. Etc. There’s this divide that has shaped global narratives. This could extend to West Africa. ECOWAS disintegration creates such fertile ground for such polarization needed for rivalry to exist.

The presence of the Wagner mercenary in the juntas’ enclave can indicate the hands of Russia; it implies that once the juntas go with Russia, whatever is left with ECOWAS after an impending ECOWAS disintegration would likely go with the West with China in the middle maintaining presence and market in all sides.

The good part of this is that World Blocks would pay more attention to each West African block; Not doing so may see rivals having greater influence in allied blocks. This will open a new window of participation of West African countries in global politics.


Overthrowing an elected government is a terrible step and must be condemned by all sensible people. However, such things do happen. Instead of dwelling on the bad side of things, we can look at the better picture as outsiders in the affairs of these countries now run by their respective armed forces. There is very little we can do to change the situation because they are sovereign states. What we can do, however is be hopeful that things get better.

Despite our not supporting the juntas, it is only the directly affected people that will decide what they want. Ours is to explore potential benefits and keep hope alive that, somehow, even the most terrible situation can result in an amazing outcome. We hope the people within these communities are able to pilot their destiny even if ECOWAS disintegration happens.

We need to be considerate because millions of lives are at stake. Rash decisions can push the region into unrest, but looking at possible benefits may inspire caution as we face the regional challenge together, irrespective of whether ECOWAS disintegration happens or not.

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