The Heads of State and Government of fifteen West African Countries established the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) when they signed the ECOWAS Treaty on the 28th of May 1975 in Lagos, Nigeria.

The Treaty of Lagos was signed by the 15 Heads of State and government of Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sénégal and Togo, with its stated mission to promote economic integration across the region. The Senegalese President was represented by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Cabo Verde joined the union in 1977. The only Arabic-speaking Member Mauritania withdrew in December 2000. Mauritania recently signed a new associate-membership agreement in August 2017.

The ECOWAS region, which spans an area of 5.2 million square kilometres. The Member States are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sénégal and Togo.

Considered one of the pillars of the African Economic Community, ECOWAS was set up to foster the ideal of collective self-sufficiency for its member states. As a trading union, it is also meant to create a single, large trading bloc through economic cooperation.

Integrated economic activities as envisaged in the area that has a combined GDP of $734.8 billion, revolve around but are not limited to industry, transport, telecommunications, energy, agriculture, natural resources, commerce, monetary and financial issues, social as well as cultural matters.

In 2007, ECOWAS Secretariat was transformed into a Commission. The Commission headed by the President, assisted by a Vice President, thirteen Commissioners and the Auditor-General of ECOWAS Institutions, comprising experienced bureaucrats who are providing the leadership in this new orientation.

As part of this renewal process, ECOWAS is implementing critical and strategic programmes that will deepen cohesion and progressively eliminate identified barriers to full integration. In this way, the estimated 300 million citizens of the community can ultimately take ownership for the realization of the new vision of moving from an ECOWAS of States to an “ECOWAS of the People: Peace and Prosperity to All”. by 2050.

The headquarters of ECOWAS is in Abuja, Nigeria. 

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