The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was founded on 28th May, 1975 in Lagos, Nigeria. It comprised all the 16 independent nations of West Africa. Abuja is the administrative head-quartres of the community and Lome, the fund headquarters. Nigeria, under the leadership of General Yakubu Gowon and Togo under president Eyadema, initiated the formation of the sub-regional economic grouping. Nigeria, Ghana, The Gambia, Sierra-Leone and Liberia are the English speaking or Anglophone countries. Senegal, Guinea, Togo, Mali, Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Cote de l’vorie, Mauritania and Niger Republic are French speaking or Francophone countries, making up the body while Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau are Busophone (Portuguese speaking).
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF ECOWAS
- Co-operation and developments: One of the aims of ECOWAS is to promote cooperation and development in all fields of economic activities e.g transport, energy, agriculture, telecommunication, etc, among the member states making up the organisation.
- Standard of living: To promote and raise the standard of living of the people through cooperation within the sub-region.
- Economic stability: To increase and maintain economic stability within the community.
- To foster closer relations: This would be achieved by encouraging free movement of citizens, goods and services.
- Development of African Continent: It is also aimed at encouraging the progress and development of the African continent.
- Establishment of common custom tariff: To remove obstacles to free movement of goods, people etc among member states.
- Funds for co-operation: The need for the establishment of this fund for compensation, cooperation and development within the sub-region.
- Elimination of custom duties: This should be done in respect of importation and exportation of goods within the ECOWAS sub-region.
ORGANS OF ECOWAS
The following are the organs established by the organisation:
a) The Authority of Heads of State and Governments
This is the foremost, the highest authority of the organisation. It is made up of Heads of state and government within the subregion. This organ is headed by a chairman, who holds office for one year. The office of the chairman is rotational. This body meets once a year but extra-ordinary meeting may be called.
Functions or Authority of Heads of State and Governments
- Appointment of the Executive Secretary: It is the body that appoints the Executive Secretary for the organisation.
- Decision – making: It is the highest decision making body,
- Regional economy: It discusses issues pertaining to the economy of the subregion.
- Recommendations: It approves the recommendations of the council of ministers.
- Treaties and agreements: It approves all agreements and treaties entered into by the community.
- Amendment of the charter: It approves proposals initiated for the amendment of the charter establishing the community.
b) The Council of Ministers: This council consists of two ministers or representatives from each member state and it meets twice in a year. Voting on issues is based on simple majority.
Functions, Duties of the Council of Ministers
- Implementation of decision: It implements decisions of the Assembly of Heads of State and makes recommendations.
- It appoints two deputy Executive Secretaries: These are appointed to assist the executive secretary in his duties.
- It appoints the Managing Director: The appointee manages the ECOWAS funds.
- Preparation of agenda: This body prepares the agenda for the meetings of the Heads of state and governments.
- Recommendations: It recommends the appointment of the Executive Secretary of the organisation to the Authority of Heads of state and governments.
- Budget: It is the body that approves the organisation’s budget.
c) The Executive Secretariat: The Executive Secretariat is the administrative organ of ECOWAS. It is located in Abuja. The Secretary-General is the head of the secretariat. He is the principal executive officer of the community and responsible for the general administration of the community. He is assisted by two deputy executive secretaries. The office is for a period of four years and may be re-elected for another term.
Functions / Duties of the Executive Secretary
- Annual report: The annual report of the organisation is prepared by him
- Administrative officer: He is the Chief Administrative Officer of the organisation.
- Appointment of staff: He appoints members of his staff.
- Budget: He supervises the preparation of the annual budget of the organisation.
Functions of the Executive Secretariat
- Correspondence of the community: This organ is responsible for all correspondence of the community
- Budget: It prepares the budget of the community
- Meetings: It makes arrangement for all the meetings of the community.
- Preparation of agenda: This organ prepares the agenda for the meetings of the council of ministers.
- Keeping of documents: It keeps the files of all the meetings of Heads of States and the Council of Ministers of the Community and also those of other organs of the community are kept in the secretariat.
- Implementation of decisions: It implements the Council of Ministers and the decisions of the authority of Heads of state and governments.
- Formulation of policies: It initiates the formulation of policies for efficient development of the community.
Note: The first executive secretary of ECOWAS was Abubakar Quattara of Cote d’ Ivoire (1975 – 85). His successors were Momodu Munu of Sierra-Leone (1985 – 89), Abbas Bundu of Sierra-Leone (1989-93), Benjamin Edourd of Guinea (1993 – 97), and Lanscina Kansana Kouyate of Guinea (1997).
d) The Fund for Co-operation, Compensation and Development: The headquarters of this Fund is Lome, Togo. It is headed by a Managing Director, who is appointed by the Council of Ministers.
Functions of the Fund for Cooperation, Compensation and Development
- The fund: It is to provide compensation to member states which sustained losses in the process of the application of the ECOWAS treaty and that of free trade or trade liberalization policy
- Foreign investments: To guarantee foreign investments proposed by member states, in line with established standard and to promote the harmonization of industrial policies.
- Development projects: The fund is to promote development efforts inless developed member states.
- Mobilization: To come up with a defined means of facilitating mobilization of internal and external resources for development in member states.
Governing Board of the Fund
- Board of Directors: The fund is governed by a board of directors, comprising ministers from each member states.
- Managing Director: The fund is administered by a managing director who is also the chief executive appointed by the Council of Ministers.
- Operational funds: The fund is expected to operate on a capital of 500 million dollars, with an initial capitalization of 50 million dollars.
e) The Community Tribunal: This tribunal settles disputes among member states making up the organisation on matters affecting the interpretation of the treaties that established ECOWAS.
f) The Technical and Specalised Commission: ECOWAS has four technical and specialised commissions.
- The Industry, Agriculture and Natural Resources Commission.
- The Trade, Customs, Immigration, Monetary and Payments Commission
- The Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Commission
- The Social and Cultural Affairs Commission.
COURT OF ECONOMIC COMMUNITY OF WEST AFRICAN STATES
It was established in 2001 mainly for administration of justice and was later empowered only to hear cases instituted by the member states on behalf of their citizens or institutions.
At an interactive session in Accra, the subregional leaders adopted a supplementary protocol which among other things, empowers citizens of the region to bring their grievances to the court.
Equally citizens are eligible to bring action for damages against any institution or government as well as seeking redress in cases of human right abuses.
PROBLEMS OR WEAKNESSES OF ECOWAS
- Colonial masters: The political economy of member states is tied to that of their respective former colonial masters.
- Language barriers: Official languages of member countries are foreign and varied: English, French, Portuguese thus complicating the communication problem.
- Free movement: The free movement as provided by the charter of ECOWAS is no more automatic because of its socioeconomic implications for member states.
- Ideological differences: This also hampers the cohesiveness of the community.
- Common currency problem: Foreign currencies like, franc, pound sterling and dollar determine the stability of currency of member states and there’s no common currency for member states.
- Different levels of economic development: This impedes movement towards harmonizing the different economies of member states.
- Political instability: Frequent changes of leadership in member countries is another major problem.
- Recession: Global recession complicates efforts of the community and its members.
- Similarity of products: The similarity of products of member states made trade among ECOWAS states difficult.
- Fear of domination: The fear of domination by larger states over smaller ones is a barrier to unity.
- ECOWAS fund: Inability of member states to contribute to ECOWAS fund is another major problem.
- Transportation and communication: These are some of the major problems facing the community.
- Poor infrastructure: Member states are adequately faced with poor infrastructural development. For example, roads, power generation and telecommunication.
- Inadequate human and material resources in the sub-region: Are some of the problems of ECOWAS. They make the body somewhat inefficient.
- Polarization of member states of ECOWAS: That is to say, Anglophone and Francophone blocs.
- Foreign intervention: Frequent foreign intervention in the domestic affairs of member states.
- Border disputes: For e.g. Ghana/Togo, Sierra-Leone and Guinea.
- Refuge problem: Which was a result of domestic power tussle, wars, etc, e.g. Cote’de-Ivoire and Liberia.
ACHIEVEMENTS OF ECOWAS
- The removal of customs duties: Customs duties that may come up in areas of exportation and importation of goods are removed.
- Elimination of obstacles: There is the elimination of obstacles to movements of persons, services and capital.
- The elimination of administrative restrictions: These and other restrictions on trade within the sub-region are removed.
- Establishment of funds: The funds are established for co-operation, compensation and development.
- Mediation: Member states mediate in disputes among states, e.g. Nigeria and Chad, Liberia, Sierra – Leone etc.
- Formation of ECOMOG: ECOMOG was formed as a peace-keeping force and it helped in restoring democracy in both Liberia and Sierra – Leone.
- Co-operation in culture and sports: Member states cooperate in these areas. For example in the area of football_ West African Football Union (WAFU).
- Apartheid and neo-colonialism: Member states within the sub-region spoke against apartheid policy in South Africa and neo-colonialism.
- Growth and expansion of markets: Production of different types of products, goods, etc, has helped in the growth and expansion of markets in member – states of the community.
- Unity: The establishment of ECOWAS has helped in uniting the people of member nations irrespective of the differences in ideology, historical background, tribes, beliefs, etc.