Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) may be defined as sub-regional organization formed by West African countries mainly to promote co-operation and development in all economic fields and of contributing to the progress and development of the African continent.
ORIGIN OF ECOWAS
The treaty called Lagos treaty formally establishing ECOWAS was signed in May 28th, 1975 in Lagos by fifteen West African Heads of State. Guinea Bissau later joined to make up 16 countries. However, the idea of establishing ECOWAS was conceived by the Heads of State of Nigeria and Togo in 1973.
The day was the finest day in the post-independence history of West Africa countries economically from the shackles of imperialism.
ECOWAS has its headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria where the main administrative and executive functions of the community and other services are performed. The seat of operations of the fund for co-operation, compensation and development is in Lome, Togo.
The community has 16 member states made up of 11 Francophone and 5 Anglophone countries. These are: Nigeria, Togo, Benin Republic, Ghana, Cote d’lvoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Gambia, Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Cape Verde.
INSTITUTIONS OR ORGANS OF ECOWAS
- The treaty formally establishing ECOWAS provided for the following organs:
- The Authority of Heads of State and Government composed of all 16 leaders of the member states, which is the supreme authority.
- The Council of Ministers made up of two ministers or representatives from each member state. It monitors the functioning and development of the community and makes recommendation to the authority.
- The Executive Secretariat in Abuja, which performs the functions of administering the community.
- The Tribunal of the Community, whose main functions are the interpretation of the treaty and ensuring the observance of law and justice.
- Five Technical and Specialized Commissions viz:
- The Trade, Customs, Immigration, Monetary and Payment Commission.
- The Industry, Agriculture and Natural Resources Commission.
- The Social and Cultural Affairs Commission.
- The Defence Commission.
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF ECOWAS
- To promote economic co-operation among member states.
- To eliminate customs duties and other charges in respect of goods between member countries.
- To promote free movement of goods, services and people within the sub-region, without visa.
- To ensure cultural cooperation e.g in sports, education, arts, e.t.c.
- To promote peace among member nations.
- To take common stand on world issues e.g against the then apartheid in South Africa.
- To contribute to a common fund to be used to compensate countries that lose economically as a result of their membership of the organization.
- To enlarge natural resources base of member nations.
- To enter into joint partnership in development of transport.
- To develop foreign investment.
ACHIEVEMENTS OF ECOWAS
- It has promoted the free movement of people, thereby abolishing the use of visa.
- The free movement of people has also led to educational interaction within the sub-region.
- Citizens of the member states have the right to settle anywhere in the sub-region.
- It has ensured military cooperation in many countries through exchange of ideas, training and materials.
- The establishment of ECOWAS has led to the development of common market for goods produced within the sub-region.
- Unity has been promoted within member states e.g ECOMOG which had helped to maintain peace in the former war-torn Liberia.
- It has also led to cultural integration through free movement of people.
- ECOWAS has helped to link members within the sub-region in the promotion of sports e.g WAFU competitions.
PROBLEMS OF ECOWAS
- Similarity of products economy limits the volume of trade among member states.
- Some members do not pay their dues regularly leading to the shortage of funds.
- Nom-implementation of agreed programmes and resolutions e.g common market and common currency.
- Differences in currency limit the level of trade among member states.
- There is the fear of domination of bigger countries over the smaller ones leading to mistrust and lack of commitment.
- There is the problem of political instability in some member states.
- There is the problem of language barrier which retards their activities.
- There is the problem of debt burden and existence of artificial barriers to trade.
SOLUTIONS TO THE PROBLEMS
- There should be need for the diversification of production economy so that different countries produce different goods.
- Members should pay their dues promptly.
- Agreed resolutions and programmes should be implemented.
- Common currency should be adopted to facilitate trade within regions.
- Teaching of modern languages, especially English and French in our educational institutions.
- Member countries should ensure political stability by good governance.
- There should be trade liberalization among member states.