Leaders of the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have drawn up a new plan to fight terrorism and stand up to armed groups affiliated with ISIS and al-Qaeda.
The plan, to be funded from 2020 to 2024, will cost a billion dollars and was signed at a summit in Burkina Faso on Saturday.
The summit, where ECOWAS nations were joined by Mauritania and Chad, was convened to discuss new and effective mechanisms to fight terrorism. Saudi Arabia, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates also attended the summit as partners in counter-terrorism.
According to a summit release, the plan is still being developed and will be based on eight main counter-terrorism aspects, efficient intelligence exchange and joint drills.
The plan will be finalized and proposed at the upcoming ECOWAS summit in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, in December.
The money, paid into a common fund, would help reinforce the military operations of the nations involved and those of the joint military operations in the region.
West African leaders explained that the funds would be directed primarily to support and develop local armies of member states. However, it will also support the G5 Sahel joint taskforce.
In 2017, the G5 Sahel pooled troops from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger in a bid to drive back the terrorist groups. But it suffered problems from the lack of real funding, training and equipment.
Concerted efforts, according to the plan, will not only be funneled to develop military spending, but to also target drug, human and arms smuggling routes.
Illegal trafficking of all sorts is perceived as one of the most important sources of funding for terrorist groups active in the Sahel region and near Lake Chad.
In the final communique, ECOWAS countries also asked the international community to back its new counter-terrorism plan.
At the start of the summit, the president of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Brou, pointed to the mounting human, economic and political toll of the jihadist attacks.
Some "2,200 attacks in the last four years, 11,500 dead, thousands wounded... millions of displaced and economic activity has been greatly affected," he said.