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Home / Monitored IGOS / Africa / Economic Community of West African States

Economic Community of West African States


Name: Economic Community of West African States

Acronym: ECOWAS
Year of foundation: 1975
Headquarters: Abuja, Nigeria
Official web site: go to page
ECOWAS documents: go to page

Ecowas Parliament



 The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is a regional organisation of 15 West African countries established on 28 May 1975. Its main goal is the promotion of the economic integration among its members. Indeed, ECOWAS is one the five regional pillars of the African Economic Community (AEC). ECOWAS has three official languages: English, French, and Portuguese.

Member States


ECOWAS has currently 15 members, namely:






 28 May 1975


Burkina Faso

Cote d’Ivoire








Sierra Leone


 Full members



Cape Verde

 Full member


 28 May 1975




 Suspended members


Guinea has been suspended after the 2008 coup détat.

Niger has been suspended after the 2009 coup d’état.




Brief History

The call for a West African community was made by President William Tubman of Liberia in 1964. An agreement was signed among Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in February 1965, but this came to nothing.

In April 1972, General Gowon of Nigeria and General Eyadema of Togo re-launched the idea, drew up proposals and toured 12 countries, soliciting their plan from July to August 1973. A meeting was then called at Lomé from 10-15 December 1973, which studied a draft treaty. This was further examined at a meeting of experts and jurists in Accra in January 1974 and by a ministerial meeting in Monrovia in January 1975. Finally, 15 West African countries  signed the treaty for an Economic Community of West African States (Treaty of Lagos) on 28 May 1975. The protocols launching ECOWAS were signed in Lomé, Togo, on 5 November 1976. In 1977 Cape Verde joined ECOWAS, while in 2002 Mauritania withdrew form the Community.
ECOWAS was founded to achieve collective self-sufficiency for the member states by means of economic and monetary union creating a single large trading bloc. It was designated one of the five regional pillars of the African Economic Community (AEC). Together with COMESA, ECCAS, IGAD, and SADC, ECOWAS signed the Protocol on Relations between the AEC and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in February 1998.
However, the very slow progress towards economic and monetary integration meant that the Treaty of Lagos was revised in Cotonou on 24 July 1993, towards a looser collaboration.
In 1900 the ECOWAS nations have signed a non-aggression protocol and two earlier agreements in 1978 and 1981. They have also signed a Protocol on Mutual Defence Assistance, in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on 29 May 1981, that provided for the establishment of an Allied Armed Force of the Community.
In 2008 Guinea On 20 October 2009 ECOWAS announced the suspension of Niger from the organisation. On 17 October ECOWAS had asked Niger to postpone its controversial 20 October elections, but the elections had been boycotted by members of the opposition as President Tandja Mamadou faced accusations of trying to lengthen his reign.
The ECOWAS Summit of December 1999 agreed on a Protocol for the Establishment of a Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution, Peace and Security. The Mechanism has a Council of Elders, as well as a Security and Mediation Council. The ten members of the latter are the Foreign Ministers of the following states: Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, and Togo. has been suspended after the coup d’état.


The Economic Integration

The ECOWAS Secretariat and the Fund for Cooperation, Compensation and Development are its two main institutions to implement ECOWAS policies. The ECOWAS Fund was transformed into the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development in 2001.

In 2000, five ECOWAS members formed the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) aiming to establish a strong stable currency, “eco”, to rival the CFA franc, whose exchange rate is tied to that of the euro and is guaranteed by the French Treasury. The eventual goal is for the CFA franc and Eco to merge, giving all of West and Central Africa a single stable currency. The launch of the new currency is being prepared by the West African Monetary Institute based in Accra, Ghana. This is intended to be the forerunner of a common central bank. However, several of the WAMZ’s countries suffer from weak currencies and chronic budget deficits which are currently plugged by their central banks printing more and more notes of decreasing real value.


ECOWAS Structure and Decision-making procedures

ECOWAS consists of the Authority of Heads of State and Government, the Council of Ministers, the Community Tribunal, Community Court of Justice, the Executive Secretariat the ECOWAS Parliament, and the Specialised Commissions.


Conference of Heads of State and Government

The Authority of Heads of State and Government of Member States is the supreme institution of the Community and is composed of Heads of State and/or Government of Member States. The Authority is responsible for the general direction and control of the Community and take all measures to ensure its progressive development and the realization of its objectives.
The Authority determines the general policy and major guidelines of the Community and gives directives. It harmonizes and co-ordinates the economic, scientific, technical, cultural and social policies of Member States; oversees the functioning of Community institutions and follow-up implementation of Community objectives; prepares and adopts its Rules of Procedure; appoints the Executive Secretary in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty; appoints on the recommendation of Council, the External Auditors; delegates to the Council, where necessary, the authority to take such decisions as stipulated in the Treaty; refers where it deems necessary any matter to the Community Court of Justice when it confirms, that a Member State or institution of the Community has failed to honour any of its obligations or an institution of the Community has acted beyond the limits of its authority or has abused the powers conferred on it by the provisions of the Treaty, by a decision of the Authority or a regulation of the Council; requests the Community Court of Justice as, and when necessary, to give advisory opinion on any legal questions; and exercises any other powers conferred on it under the Treaty.
The Authority meets at least once a year in ordinary session. An extraordinary session may be convened by the Chairman of the Authority or at the request of a Member State provided that such a request is supported by a simple majority of the Member States. The office of the Chairman is held every year by a Member State elected by the Authority.

Council of Ministers

The Council comprises the Minister in charge of ECOWAS Affairs and any other Minister of each Member State. Council is responsible for the functioning and development of the Community. To this end, unless otherwise provided in the Treaty or a Protocol, Council makes recommendations to the Authority on any action aimed at attaining the objectives of the Community, and appoints all statutory appointees other than the Executive Secretary. By the powers delegated to it by the Authority, the Council issues directives on matters concerning coordination and harmonization of economic integration policies. It makes recommendations to the Authority on the appointment of the External Auditors, prepares and adopt its rules of procedure, and carries out all other functions assigned to it. under this Treaty and exercise all powers delegated to if by the Authority.
The Council meets at least twice a year in ordinary session. One of such sessions has immediately preceded by the ordinary session of the Authority. An extraordinary session may be convened by the Chairman of Council or at the request of a Member State provided that such request is supported by a simple majority of the Member States. The office of Chairman of Council is held by the Minister responsible for ECOWAS Affairs of the Member State elected as Chairman of the Authority.


Community Tribunal

The treaty of provides for a Community Tribunal, whose composition and competence are determined by the Conference of Heads of State and Government. The Tribunal interprets the provisions of the treaty and settles disputes between member states that are referred to it.


Community Court of Justice

In October 1999, ECOWAS decided to establish a Court of Justice following a two-day meeting of Justice Ministers in Abuja. The court will address complaints from member states and institutions of ECOWAS, as well as issues relating to defaulting nations. The court has a president, chief registrar and seven judges and is a permanent institution. Draft rules of procedure for the Court are being finalised.


Executive Secretariat

The Executive Secretary is elected for a four-year term, which may be renewed once only. ECOWAS is undergoing a process of reform, which has seen the post of financial controller being scrapped, while two positions of deputy executive secretaries have been created for economic co-operation and policy harmonisation respectively. The restructuring of the Executive Secretariat was approved at the summit in December 1999.


ECOWAS Parliament

The ECOWAS Parliament plays an essentially consultative role: it provides advisory opinion on issues covering a wide range of areas that are of crucial importance for the integration process. These include respect for human rights, the interconnection of communication and telecommunication links, health, education, and revisions of basic community texts. A Decision dated 12 January 2006 defines the process by which regional executives can make referrals to the Parliament. It also specifies the timeframes within which recommendations and requests for advisory opinion are to be formulated and transmitted to the ECOWAS Parliament.
The ECOWAS Parliament has 115 seats, which are distributed among the 15 ECOWAS Member States on the basis of their population. Nigeria, which has by far the largest population, has 35 seats; Togo, Liberia, Cape Verde, Guinea Conakry, Guinea Bissau, Republic of Benin, the GambiaSierra Leone have 5 Parliamentarians each; Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Senegal have 6 Parliamentarians each; Cote d’Ivoire is entitled to 7 representatives; Ghana has 8.
The Parliament’s political organs are the plenary, the Bureau, the Conference of Bureaux and the parliamentary standing committees. A General Secretariat, under the authority of the Speaker of Parliament, is responsible for the administration of Parliament.

Specialised Commissions

The Specialised Commissions are: Food and Agriculture; Industry, Science and Technology and Energy; Environment and Natural Resources; Transport, Communications and Tourism; Trade, Customs, Taxation, Statistics, Money and Payments; Political, Judicial and Legal Affairs, Regional Security and Immigration; Human Resources, Information, Social and Cultural Affairs; Administration and Finance Commission.
The Authority may, whenever it deems appropriate, restructure the existing Commissions or establish new Commissions. Each commission comprises representatives of each Member State. Each Commission may, as it deems necessary, set up subsidiary commissions to assist it in carrying out its work. It determines the composition of any such subsidiary commission.



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