The Heads of State and Government of fifteen West African Countries established the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) when they signed the ECOWAS Treaty on the 28th of May 1975 in Lagos, Nigeria.
The Treaty of Lagos was signed by the 15 Heads of State and government of Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sénégal and Togo, with its stated mission to promote economic integration across the region. The Senegalese President was represented by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Cabo Verde joined the union in 1977. The only Arabic-speaking Member Mauritania withdrew in December 2000. Mauritania recently signed a new associate-membership agreement in August 2017.
The ECOWAS region, which spans an area of 5.2 million square kilometres. The Member States are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sénégal and Togo.
Considered one of the pillars of the African Economic Community, ECOWAS was set up to foster the ideal of collective self-sufficiency for its member states. As a trading union, it is also meant to create a single, large trading bloc through economic cooperation.
Integrated economic activities as envisaged in the area that has a combined GDP of $734.8 billion, revolve around but are not limited to industry, transport, telecommunications, energy, agriculture, natural resources, commerce, monetary and financial issues, social as well as cultural matters.
In 2007, ECOWAS Secretariat was transformed into a Commission. The Commission headed by the President, assisted by a Vice President, thirteen Commissioners and the Auditor-General of ECOWAS Institutions, comprising experienced bureaucrats who are providing the leadership in this new orientation.
As part of this renewal process, ECOWAS is implementing critical and strategic programmes that will deepen cohesion and progressively eliminate identified barriers to full integration. In this way, the estimated 300 million citizens of the community can ultimately take ownership for the realization of the new vision of moving from an ECOWAS of States to an “ECOWAS of the People: Peace and Prosperity to All”. by 2050.
The headquarters of ECOWAS is in Abuja, Nigeria.
The aim of the Community is to promote co-operation and integration, leading to the establishment of an economic union in West Africa in order to raise the living standards of its peoples, and to maintain and enhance economic stability, foster relations-among Member States and contribute to the progress and development of the African continent.
- The harmonisation and co-ordination of national policies and the promotion of integration programmes, projects and activities, particularly in food, agriculture and natural resources, industry, transport and communications, energy, trade, money and finance, taxation, economic reform policies, human resources, education, information, culture, science, technology, services, health, tourism, legal matters;
- The harmonisation and co-ordination of policies for the protection of the environment;
- The promotion of the establishment of joint production enterprises;
- The establishment of a common market through;
- The liberalisation of trade by the abolition, among Member States, of customs duties levied on imports and exports, and the abolition, among Member States, of non-tariff barriers in order to establish a free trade area at the Community level;
- The adoption of a common external tariff and a common trade policy vis-a-vis third countries;
- The removal, between Member States, of obstacles to the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital, and to the right of residence and establishment;
- The establishment of an economic union through the adoption of common policies in the economic, financial, social and cultural sectors, and the creation of a monetary union.
- The promotion of joint ventures by private sector enterprises and other economic operators, in particular through the adoption of a regional agreement on cross- border investments;
- The adoption of measures for the integration of the private sectors, particularly the creation of an enabling environment to promote small and medium scale enterprises;
- The establishment of an enabling legal environment;
- The harmonisation of national investment codes leading to the adoption of a single Community investment code;
- The harmonisation of standards and measures;
- The promotion of balanced development of the region, paying attention to the special problems of each Member State particularly those of landlocked and small island Member States;
- The encouragement and strengthening of relations and the promotion of the flow of information particularly among rural populations, women and youth organisations and socio-professional organisations such as associations of the media, business men and women, workers, and trade unions;
- The adoption of a Community population policy which takes into account the need for a balance between demographic factors and socio-economic development;
- The establishment of a fund for co-operation, compensation and development; and
- Any other activity that Member States may decide to undertake jointly with a view to attaining Community objectives.
- Equality and inter-dependence of Member States;
- Solidarity and collective self-reliance;
- Inter-State co-operation, harmonisation of policies and integration of programmes;
- Non-aggression between Member States;
- Gaintenance of regional peace, stability and security through the promotion and strengthening of good neighbourliness;
- Peaceful settlement of disputes among Member States, active co-operation between neighbouring countries and promotion of a peaceful environment as a prerequisite for economic development;
- Recognition, promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in accordance with the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights;
- Accountability, economic and social justice and popular participation in development;
- Recognition and observance of the rules and principles of the Community;
- Promotion and consolidation of a democratic system of governance in each Member State as envisaged by the Declaration of Political Principles adopted in Abuja on 6 July, 1991; and
- Equitable and just distribution of the costs and benefits of economic co-operation and integration.
VISION § A borderless region where the population has access to its abundant resources and is able to exploit them through the creation of opportunities under a sustainable environment. § An integrated region where the population enjoys free movement, access to efficient education and health systems, engage in economic and commercial activities and live in dignity, in an environment of peace and security.
- A region governed in accordance with the principles of democracy, the rule of law and good governance.