West Africa Exit announcement by Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger – Development Minister Schulze travels to Nigeria for political talks with ECOWAS
Schulze said, “free trade and visa-free travel have made life and business in West Africa a whole lot easier. That is why I find it regrettable that Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger have decided to withdraw from ECOWAS. This decision by sovereign states must be respected even if it entails a lot of economic disadvantages. My intention during my visit to Abuja is to first and foremost listen and learn about the situation. There is disappointment on both sides. Nevertheless, I encourage everyone to not make the situation worse. Both sides have the opportunity to defuse tensions and try to find common ground. The more links are maintained the better for the region. After all, economic integration is a key driving force for development. We are willing to continue to support West Africa on this path as a donor community.”
ECOWAS has taken on the task of driving economic and political integration in West Africa. The aim is to create a West African internal market and expand the regional peace and security architecture. So far, these efforts have improved trade, facilitated the movement of people and led to cross-border infrastructure projects such as roads, energy and communication networks in the West African trade region.
The meeting between Schulze and ECOWAS President Touray will focus on the potential social and economic consequences of the withdrawal and the question of how to organise and ideally maintain political and economic ties between ECOWAS and the three countries. Following the exit announcement of the three countries, ECOWAS immediately stressed that it would not be closing the door on these countries but striving to build bridges. ECOWAS made clear that the three countries are important members of the community and that ECOWAS was ready to find a negotiated way forward in the political deadlock.
The visit by Schulze and Kofler will also address cooperation with the new Nigerian government. Bilateral meetings are planned with the Minister of Planning, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, and the Minister of Trade, Doris Uzoka-Anite. Nigeria, with a population of more than 220 million, is the most populous country in Africa and faced with enormous population growth. The United Nations expect the country’s population to double by 2050, reaching a total of about 400 million people. This means that finding solutions for global problems will also depend more and more on Nigeria in the future. At the same time, Nigeria will become increasingly important for Germany’s export-oriented economy. Cooperation with Nigeria on migration policy will also be gaining increasing importance.
The Minister will be spending time in Plateau State as of Tuesday to learn about the resource conflict between farmers and pastoralists which has become worse in the wake of climate change and population growth and is threatening stability in the region. By means of targeted projects the BMZ is seeking to support the country in its efforts to defuse the conflict.
On Thursday and Friday, Parliamentary State Secretary Kofler will be travelling on to Lagos, which is one of the largest and strongest growing cities worldwide with a population of 20 million. The focus of the visit there will be on cooperation on sustainable economic development, vocational training and employment. Creating sufficient jobs for the young and growing population of the country is critical for stability. Kofler will be meeting founders of digital companies and representatives of Lagos state employment authority to discuss the challenges that entrepreneurs are facing and ways in which German development policy can provide targeted support.