The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Essay
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)
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 28th May 1975.
The protocols launching ECOWAS were signed in Lomé, Togo, on 5th November 1976. In 1977 Cape Verde joined ECOWAS, while in 2002 Mauritania withdrew from 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 1990 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 Defense Assistance, in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on 29th May 1981 that provided for the establishment of an Allied Armed Force of the Community. On 20th October 2009 ECOWAS announced the suspension of Niger from the organization. On 17th October ECOWAS had asked Niger to postpone its controversial 20th 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. AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
The main aims and objectives of ECOWAS are to bring peace among African countries and also to encourage trade among these nations. These are the following aims and objectives according to the Treaty of ECOWAS. 1. The aims of the Community are 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 people, and to maintain and enhance economic stability, foster relations among Member States and contribute to the progress and development of the African Continent.
2. In order to achieve the aims set out in the paragraph above, and in accordance with the relevant provisions of this Treaty, the Community shall, by stages, ensure; a) the harmonization 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; b) the harmonization and co-ordination of policies for the protection of the environment; c) the promotion of the establishment of joint production enterprises; d) the establishment of a common market through:
i. the liberalization 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; ii. the adoption of a common external tariff and a common trade policy vis-a-vis third countries; iii. the removal, between Member States, of obstacles to the free movement of persons, goods, service and capital, and to the right of residence and establishment;
e) 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. f) the promotion of joint ventures by private sectors enterprises and other economic operators, in particular through the adoption of a regional agreement on cross-border investments; g) 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; h) the establishment of an enabling legal environment;
i) the harmonization of national investment codes leading to the adoption of a single Community investment code; j) the harmonization of standards and measures;
k) 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; l) the encouragement and strengthening of relations and the promotion of the flow of information particularly among rural populations, women and youth organizations and socio-professional organizations such as associations of the media, business men and women, workers, and trade unions; m) the adoption of a Community population policy which takes into account the need for a balance between demographic factors and socioeconomic development; n) the establishment of a fund for co-operation, compensation and development; and o) Any other activity that Member States may decide to undertake jointly with a view to attaining Community objectives.
INSTITUTIONS AND AGENCIES UNDER ECOWAS
The Institutions of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are as follows: The ECOWAS Commission
The Community Parliament;
The Community Court of Justice;
ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID)
A. THE ECOWAS COMMISSION
The Heads of State and Government broke with the past by their historic decision to transform the ECOWAS Secretariat into a Commission in 2006. The difference goes beyond a name change and an increase in the number of officers at the management level. After more than thirty years of existence, ECOWAS finds itself at a cross-road. At thirty-eight, ECOWAS has come of age, it is mature and the master of its destiny. Changes have already been underway with the support of development partners. These initiatives were boosted by the Heads of State and Government when they endorsed institutional transformation covering all ECOWAS Institutions.
By implementing this transformation process which should reposition ECOWAS vis-a-vis the West African populations to whom pledges have been made, the leaders of our region have taken the destiny of their institution into their own hands. Indeed, by subscribing to the vision of the Founding fathers of ECOWAS, they have taken ownership of the objectives designed to improve the living conditions of the citizenry, ensure economic growth and create an environment conducive to development and integration. By becoming a Commission with enhanced powers and Commissioners in charge of smaller and clearly defined sectors, the ECOWAS Commission will have more impact and become more visible in Member States. Regarding the Community Parliament, the restructuring is designed to make it more efficient by providing it with relevant management support. B. THE COMMUNITY PARLIAMENT
The Parliament is the Assembly of Peoples of the Community. Its members represent all the peoples of West Africa. Parliament consists of 115 seats. Each of the 15 Member State has five seats at least. The remaining seats are shared in proportion to the population. As a result, Nigeria has 35 seats, Ghana 8, Côte d’Ivoire 7, while Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Senegal have 06 seats each. Other countries: Benin, Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Togo have 05 seats each.
C. THE COMMUNITY COURT OF JUSTICE
The Court is composed of seven (7) independent Judges who are persons of high moral character, appointed by the Authority of Heads of State of Government, from nationals of Member States, for a four-year term of office, upon recommendation of the Community Judicial council. The Mandate of the Court is to ensure the observance of law and of the principles of equity and in the interpretation and application of the provisions of the Revised Treat and all other subsidiary legal instruments adopted by Community. D. ECOWAS BANK FOR INVESTMENT AND DEVELOPMENT (EBID)
EBID’s vision is to become the leading regional investment and development finance bank in West Africa, a powerful financial institution for private sector promotion and financing in the region and an effective instrument for poverty alleviation, wealth creation and job promotion for the well-being of the people of the region. EBID’s mission is to contribute towards the creation of the conditions which would enhance the emergence of an economically strong, industrialized, and prosperous West Africa that is perfectly integrated both internally and in the global economic system in order to benefit from the opportunities offered by globalization AGENCIES Special agencies of ECOWAS are: 1. West African Health Organization (WAHO)
2. West African Monetary Agency (WAMA)
3. West African Monetary Institute (WAMI)
4. ECOWAS Youth & Sports Development Centre (EYSDC)
5. ECOWAS Gender Development Centre (EGDC)
6. Water Resources Coordination Unit (WRCU)
7. ECOWAS BROWN CARD
8. The West African Power Pool (WAPP)
9. The Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing in West Africa (GIABA) 10. West African Regional Health Programme (PRSAO)
11. ECOWAS Regional Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency(ECREEE) 12. ECOWAS Regional Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERERA)
ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE ECOWAS
Recent achievements of ECOWAS include a $500m cross border pipeline project (WAGP) that will transport natural gas from Nigeria to three other ECOWAS countries -Ghana, Togo and Benin. This project is only one of a handful of regional partnerships with the private sector that ECOWAS has managed to establish. Another venture that has been in existence since 1985 is ECOBANK, which is now a full-service regional banking institution with 57 branches and offices in 12 countries across West Africa. That said, other than the WAGP, few ECOWAS nationals know that ECOWAS has a container-handling facility, based in Lomé, called ECOMARINE.
It was established in June 2001 with funding from the World Bank. A regional airline, ECOAIR – also a first for the continent – is being planned since 2000, with Nigeria and Ghana, among others, owning shares. Regrettably it has yet to attract sufficient capital to see the project take off, indeed. Then there is the ECOWAS Community Court that functions in an advisory capacity, as well as the ECOWAS Parliament that is essentially a forum for dialogue, consultation and consensus among representatives of West Africans. Its main aim is to promote regional integration. And, in recognition of the prominent role of agriculture within the region, ECOWAS recently adopted a Common Agricultural Policy (ECOWAP). PROBLEMS OF ECOWAS
As every regional organization, ECOWAS had to deal from the beginning with the inherent problems in these cases. Like for instance, the effective coordination of policies throughout the region, the need to help some countries that may suffer loses in the early stages or the need to surrender some sovereign powers in the decision-making process. Since coordination of economic planning and economic policies demand surrender of part of sovereignty, integration problems could arise because states in the sub-region seem to jealously guard their sovereignty. In the ECOWAS Treaty, among its aims, there is no mention for bargaining between ECOWAS countries and the rest of the world, especially the industrialized part of it.
This is an important omission for the need of the Member States to have a common stand on many issues and to bargain together with other countries. Another major criticism of ECOWAS as it emerges from the provisions of the Treaty is that “it would create a free-trade zone favoring the more-developed Member States at the expense of the less-developed ones”. Thus, elimination of customs duties among the members might open wider markets for those countries that have already heavy industries, which means they could dominate the markets of the less developed ones with products that are produced at lower costs, with cheaper raw materials from within the community. As a consequence, the less developed members, facing higher costs, have to compete with these economies of scale.
The situation might nevertheless be improved through harmonization of economic and industrial policies which might have to share out areas of industrial specialization for the various states making adequate provision for the less developed members. It should be added that most of the West African countries rely on primary agricultural produce for their foreign-exchange earning. Therefore, the sharp drop in the prices of some of the agricultural products coupled with inflation on imported goods leads to some countries to face balance-of-payments deficits while countries with more diversified agricultural products coupled with minerals have surpluses on their balance-of-payments accounts.
Nevertheless, the solution is to give priority to policies harmonization especially in the industrial sector because even though their agriculture is mostly underdeveloped, “the future economic development, including the modernization of agriculture, is closely intertwined with their ability to industrialize rapidly”. Problems for ECOWAS could also arise from the existing material infrastructure of the West African sub-region, which is hardly developed and thus constitutes a basic impediment to the growth of intra-regional trade within the ECOWAS, for instance the internal and international road system or the need for modern harbours, the telecommunications system, the need for a modern well-developed commercial banking system or an organized exchange market. This underdeveloped material, human and institutional structure is an essential factor in slowing down the full benefit of a multilateral system. THANK YOU