By DAPO OLAWUNI
The abrupt pullout of three African countries namely; Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has fragmented the regional blocs which is the bedrock of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA)
Considering the role of the three countries in the fight against terrorism in the region, their departure is also likely to have adverse effects on the ongoing collaborative efforts to address security issues.
The three countries recently announced their exit based on grounds that after 49 years, the bloc no longer pursues the interests of its people but is influenced by foreign powers. They also criticised ECOWAS over the sanctions imposed on them as part of efforts to reverse the coups in their countries.
On a continental scale, maritime stakeholders have said that a fragmented ECOWAS will negatively affect AfCFTA, which relies on regional blocs to aid the movement of goods and services across the continent without restrictions.
Speaking on the exit of the three countries from ECOWAS, a former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration Safety Agency (NIMASA), Temisan Omatseye, said their leaving the ECOWAS bloc is highly unfortunate.
He said the issue of trade and the free movement of goods within the ECOWAS countries might be affected, noting that it means the countries would be placing Visa’s on ECOWAS countries for the movement of their goods.
The President of the National Council of Managing Director of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero, said Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are landlocked and francophone countries, adding that their decisions is going to affect the relationship in terms of trade in ECOWAS.
“The implication is that they will break the ranks of ECOWAS. They will not pull out of AfCFTA, because they are still African states. They may go to new blocs and move most of their trading there,” Amiwero said.
The National Secretary, Maritime Researchers and Authors Association of Nigeria (MARASSON), Ajanonwu Vincent, said the three countries will not be affected much, but that the ECOWAS countries will be affected more as they rely on them for their trade trans-shipment.
He stated that the implication to Nigeria and other ECOWAS countries is loss of trade, adding that the volume of trade and revenue will drop.
Vincent stated that Nigeria will stop receiving their cargoes and they will have to devise another means of taking their cargoes either by air or any other means.
On his part, the Managing Director of Widescope International Logistics Limited, Dr. Segun Musa, said it will be suicidal to either party to extend this non-alignment to trade, because they all depend on each other when it comes to transiting and integrating trade.
He noted that a lot of ECOWAS countries used to use these three countries’ passageways for transit because of the way they are geographically structured. Musa said there might be a need to sign additional agreements on trade that will not conflict the interest of countries in ECOWAS or non-ECOWAS.