An asset for West African states

14Sep 2020
The Guardian
An asset for West African states

​​​​​​​The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, was on Monday elected Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), at the 57th ECOWAS Summit held in Niamey, Niger.

The President, who was elected unanimously by his peers, takes over the mantle of leadership from the President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, for a period of one year.

Following in the footsteps of his predecessors, Presidents Jerry John Rawlings, John Agyekum Kufuor, and John Dramani Mahama, who also had similar privilege to lead the sub-continental body, President Akufo-Addo in his remark, thanked the Assembly for the honour, and assured member states that he would do his utmost not to let the side down, as he would discharge his duties to the best of his abilities.

“Excellencies, I am fully aware of the challenges which confront West Africa. Past leaders of ECOWAS have demonstrated their collective will and determination to drive the agenda of regional integration, opening up our economic frontiers, encouraging healthy competition amongst Member States, and ensuring that we adhere to our formative principles.

“As much as considerable progress has been made since the establishment of ECOWAS, some 45 years ago, we are all agreed that there is much more to be done to consolidate the socio-economic and political gains made over the years.”

According to President Akufo-Addo, five immediate challenges face the regional organisation, ECOWAS, for which Member States must address.

He listed them as the continuing activities of terrorists in the region, concentrated, for the time being, in the Sahelian area, involving Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and the northern parts of Nigeria; the COVID-19 pandemic, which has attacked the populations and economies of each of the Member States; the imminent coming into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area on January 1, 2021; the 2020 decision on monetary union within the ECOWAS space; and the consolidation of democratic governance in the face of the turbulent conditions of the Community.

“The challenges, in these critical regional spheres, such as security, economy, trade, currency and health, must be addressed in a spirit of genuine co-operation and solidarity, if we are to succeed in overcoming them, which we can.

“In so doing, we must protect, at all costs, our freedom and independence of action, so that the development of our Community responds to the needs and aspirations of our peoples, and not to the goals of external agencies and forces.“I am confident that, by the grace of God, I can count on the unstinting support of each one of Your Excellencies in navigating the immediate future of our Community,” he added.

The Ghanaian Times commends the President for his assumption of the Chairmanship of ECOWAS and outlining the clear goals he would be pursuing in his one-year tenure.

As already stated, the task ahead is daunting but we have no doubt that the President, with his vast experience in diplomacy and governance would be able to lead in resolving some of the perennial problems of the sub-region.We see in the President an asset that the sub-region can utilise to deal with some of the challenges to achieve results.

With co-operation from fellow Heads of State and the willingness to implement regional decisions, such as the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme and other protocols, the new ECOWAS Chairman would definitely succeed.

When that happens, the entire sub-region and its people would be the beneficiaries.Once again we congratulate the President on his assumption of office as the Chairman of ECOWAS.

The Economic Community of West African States, also known as ECOWAS, is a regional political and economic union of fifteen countries located in West Africa. Collectively, these countries comprise an area of 5,114,162 km2 (1,974,589 sq mi), and in 2015 had an estimated population of over 349 million.

The union was established on 28 May 1975, with the signing of the Treaty of Lagos, with its stated mission to promote economic integration across the region. A revised version of the treaty was agreed and signed on 24 July 1993 in Cotonou.  Considered one of the pillar regional blocs of the continent-wide African Economic Community (AEC), the stated goal of ECOWAS is to achieve "collective self-sufficiency" for its member states by creating a single large trade bloc by building a full economic and trading union.

The ECOWAS also serves as a peacekeeping force in the region, with member states occasionally sending joint military forces to intervene in the bloc's member countries at times of political instability and unrest. In recent years these included interventions in Ivory Coast in 2003, Liberia in 2003, Guinea-Bissau in 2012, Mali in 2013, and The Gambia in 2017.  

ECOWAS includes two sub-regional blocs:

  • The West African Economic and Monetary Union (also known by its French-language acronym UEMOA) is an organisation of eight, mainly French-speaking, states within the ECOWAS which share a customs union and currency union. Established in 1994 and intended to counterbalance the dominance of English-speaking economies in the bloc (such as Nigeria and Ghana), members of UEMOA are mostly former territories of French West Africa. The currency they all use is the CFA franc, which is pegged to the euro.
  • The West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ), established in 2000, comprises six mainly English-speaking countries within ECOWAS which plan to work towards adopting their own common currency, the eco.

In addition, ECOWAS includes the following institutions: ECOWAS Commission, Community Court of Justice,[8] Community Parliament,  ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID),  West African Health Organisation (WAHO),  and the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing in West Africa (GIABA).  

The ECOWAS operates in three co-official languages—French, English, and Portuguese, and consists of two institutions to implement policies: the ECOWAS Commission and the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID), formerly known as the Fund for Cooperation until it was renamed in 2001. In 1976, Cape Verde joined the ECOWAS, while Mauritania withdrew in December 2000, having announced its intention to do so in December 1999.

In 2011, the ECOWAS adopted its development blueprint for the next decade, Vision 2020, and, to accompany it, a Policy on Science and Technology (ECOPOST).  

As of February 2017, ECOWAS has 15 member states; eight of these are French-speaking, five are English-speaking, and two Portuguese-speaking. All current members joined the community as founding members in May 1975, except Cape Verde which joined in 1977.  The only former member of ECOWAS is Arabic-speaking Mauritania, which was also one of the founding members in 1975 and decided to withdraw in December 2000.  Mauritania recently signed a new associate-membership agreement in August 2017.  

Morocco officially requested to join ECOWAS in February 2017.  The application was endorsed in principle at the summit of heads of state in June 2017,  but Morocco's bid for membership was stalled.  

Statistics for population, nominal GDP and purchasing power parity GDP listed below are taken from World Bank estimates for 2015, published in December 2016.  Area data is taken from a 2012 report compiled by the United Nations Statistics Division.  

Top Stories