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Western Africa: Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS)

Countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo

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ECOWAS Executive Secretariat – Secrétariat Exécutif de la CEDEAO

  • Executive Secretary: Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas
  • Address: 60, Yakubu Gowon Crescent, Asokoro District, Abuja, Nigeria P.M.B. 401
  • Telephone: (234) (9) 31 47 647-9 or 47 427-9
  • Fax : (234) (9) 31 43 005
  • Internet:


Mr. Mohammed Ibn. Chambas, ECOWAS Executive Secretary

The new Executive Secretary of ECOWAS, Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, formally took over on 6th February 2002.  Dr Chambas, a lawyer and political scientist, was born in Ghana on December 7, 1950. He holds degrees in Political Science from University of Ghana, Legon, (B.A. 1973) and Cornell University Ithaca, New York (M.A. 1977, Ph D (1980). He has also a law degree from Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio. Prior to his new position, he has had a long political career in Ghana, as member of parliament (1993-96 and 2000-2001) and in Government mostly in the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Education. Between April 1997 and December 2000, Dr Chambas was the Deputy Minister of Education in charge of tertiary education. Dr Chambas, a Muslim, is married..

Institutional Background

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was formally established in May 1975 by the ECOWAS Treaty. In 1993, the ECOWAS Treaty was revised to accelerate the process of integration and establish an economic and monetary union to stimulate economic growth and development in West Africa with the following objectives: (i) the removal of customs duties for intra-ECOWAS trade and taxes having equivalent effect, (ii) the establishment of a common external tariff; (iii) the harmonization of economic and financial policies; and (iv) the creation of a single monetary zone. As Mauritania decided to withdraw in 1999, ECOWASis now a regional grouping of fifteen countries (including the eight WAEMU country members): Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

ECOWAS Institutions

ECOWAS institutional designis loosely patterned after the European Union. Besides the Executive Secretariat, ECOWAS institutions include: The Authority of Heads of State and Government led by the President of Senegal for 2002, a Council of Ministers, a Fund for Cooperation, Compensation and Development. Institutions also include a Parliament, an Economic and Social Council and a Court of Justice.

Economic Background

The ECOWAS region had a population of 245 million in 2002 with a dominant Nigeria economy, counting for half of the population and half of the regional aggregate GDP. It consists broadly of two distinct zones – a Sahelian zone, largely landlocked, and a more humid, forested coastal zone. Besides, this geographic specificity, eight ECOWAS members also belong to WAEMU, a customs and monetary union. ECOWAS’s exports are mostly comprised of a limited range of agricultural commodities. This reliance on internationally traded commodities leaves ECOWAS countries vulnerable to the external shocks of international market price fluctuations. Since all countries but Nigeria are net oil importers, fluctuations in oil prices on the import side are often combined with commodity price shocks on the export side. Manufactured exports are negligible. Intra-regional trade as a share of total trade remains marginal, at some 10 percent reflecting the lack of complementarities of the economies.

The ECOWAS sub-region has benefited from the improvement of performance achieved in the WAEMU zone during 1994-1998 period, after the positive impact of the devaluation of the CFA franc in 1994.

However, beginning in 1998, the economic performance of the sub-region as a whole has weakened, primarily because of a sharp decline in the terms of trade (-3.3% in 1999), and political uncertainties in several countries, notably Côte d'Ivoire. Growth resumed since 2000 with a growth rate of 2.6% and 3.5% in 2001. It was estimated at 0.9% in 2002.

ECOWAS Selected Economic Indicators20012002


Population (million)239.6245.0250.0
GDP (US$ billion)79.288.2109.0
GDP growth (%)
DGP per capita (US$)314.0312.3326.1
Fiscal deficit/GDP (%)
Inflation (CPI, %)
Export growth2.5-5.820.2


ECOWAS Selected Social Indicators (latest year available 1997-03) ECOWASSSA
Life expectancy4646
Literacy rate (%)62


Infant mortality (%)105103
Access to improved water (%)6358
Gross primary enrollment (%)86







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