|There are 15 countries in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS): Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. ECOWAS works to promote co-operation in the region on a range of economic and political issues including conflict resolution.
The countries of West Africa have a population of 245 million. About 65 percent of them live in rural areas.
Eight countries in the region (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo) are members of the West Africa Economy and Monetary Union (WAEMU) and share a common currency, a common central bank, a development bank, a regional stock exchange and a common banking regulator.
The average yearly income for each person in West Africa is $309. This compares with an average yearly income for each person in Sub-Saharan Africa of $470.
The region's economic growth has averaged only 2.5 percent during the past three years while its population has been growing by 2.2 percent a year. It is estimated that economic growth of about 6-7 percent a year would be required to meet the goal of cutting extreme poverty in half by 2015.
West Africa is lagging in efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals
- Over 55 percent of West Africans life on less than $1 a day;
- Life expectancy at birth is only 46 years;
- Secondary school enrollment is at 20 percent;
- Forty-two percent of adults are illiterate;
- Malnutrition affects 29 percent of children under the age of five.
In 1999, it was estimated that $800 million that could have been used for development was instead diverted into conflicts.
Millennium Development Goals
| • Eradicating extreme poverty|
| • Achieving universal primary education|
| • Obtaining equality for girls and women|
| • Reducing child mortality |
| • Improving maternal health|
| • Combating the spread of HIV/AIDS|
| • Protecting the environment |
| • Fostering a global partnership for development|
Basic Services Underdeveloped
- Only about 10 percent of the overall population has access to electricity. In rural areas this figure can be as low as 1 percent.
- The area also has among the world's lowest penetration for telecommunications services. Only 3.39 percent of people had access to a telephone as of late last year, compared to a world average of around 36 percent.
- In 2002, only about 63 percent of ECOWAS' 245 million people had access to a safe water supply.
Conflict Five countries in West Africa are currently affected by conflict. They are Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
In 2003, 65 percent of West Africa's population lived in countries severely affected by conflict.
Over the past 15 years, nine of the 15 members of ECOWAS have experienced conflict ranging from high intensity civil wars to violence during elections.
One of the most common reasons advanced for the prevalence of conflict is weak governance. The area accounts for more than 70 percent of military coups in Africa. There is a high degree of illicit trade in diamonds and timber, which can be directly related to the conflict. In Liberia it is estimated to be more than $60 million a year and Sierra Leone more than $25 million.
Conflict in Cote d'Ivoire has been particularly damaging for the region. It serves as a regional hub for landlocked countries in the region, meaning that neighboring countries depend heavily on it for imports and exports. For example 43 percent of Mali's exports and 77 percent of Burkina Faso's exports are shipped through Abidjan.
Maintaining peace in the region is seen as a prerequisite for improving its development outcomes.