Comparative Analysis Has The Revised Ecowas Treaty Politics

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The Economic Community of West African States is made up 15 countries namely Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.1 The treaty was signed in Lagos, Nigeria on the 28th May 1975 by the Presidents of the countries, while Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau joined shortly and Mauritania departed in 19992. It is a regional integration scheme created based on the initiatives of Gnesingba Eyadema and Yakubu Gowon who were then leaders of Togo and Nigeria respectively and it is also referred to as the community.

ECOWAS evidences the heterogeneity of West Africa in terms of political boundaries, size of countries, languages, and level of economic development. There are five Anglophone, eight Francophone and two Lusophone countries. In addition, ECOWAS encircles over 200 million people within its member states with a surface area of over 6.0 million square kilometres, within this land mass it has mini-states such Cape Verde, Togo and Gambia, as well as mega-nations such as Mali and Nigeria. It contains some of the world�s poorest countries such as Liberia, Guinea, Benin, at the same time containing the largest variation of mineral ores and agricultural products. Furthermore, ten member states of ECOWAS have (or had) similar commitments to other regional integration bodies such as UEMOA, MRU, CEAO. These complex circumstances have definitely influenced the implementation of the aspirations of the ECOWAS treaty.

b) Main Objectives

ECOWAS was created as a trade organization to promote trade, co-operation and self reliance within West Africa, sequentially creating a strong economy and thus increasing the regions dominance.

These objectives are evidenced by the preamble of the 1975, which is currently Article 3 of the 1993 treaty that states �The aims of the Community are to promote cooperation and integration, leading to the establishment of an economic union in West Africa in order to raise the living standards of its peoples, and to maintain and enhance economic stability, foster relations among Member States and contribute to the progress and development of the African Continent�.3

In order to achieve these ambitious goals, the organisation plans to eliminate custom duties among its members, implement a common external tariff and trade policy towards non-member states.4 Additionally, it aims to encourage the free movement of goods, services and people within its borders, while harmonizing trade, agricultural, energy and environmental policies for its member states.5

Furthermore, the treaty necessitates the creation of a �special fund� to encourage sub-regional collaboration and progress, especially in relatively disadvantaged member nations6. It also calls for harmonization of investment codes and standards between its members7. In essence, it is encouraging a multistage process of economic integration, via Free trade area, then customs union resulting in a common market and subsequently economic union/monetary integration.

c) The ECOWAS Treaty

ECOWAS was founded on its 1975 treaty, the framework of this treaty was formed primarily for economic integration, it did not contain any political or regional security goals as these were seen in mostly military provisos and there was a strong reverence towards state sovereignty.8

However, due to the tardiness in the advancement of the goals of ECOWAS, this treaty was revised in 1993.9 This treaty carried stipulations which showed a strong bond between the progress of economic development and regional security. The new treaty incorporated amplified political contributions as well as solidarity between the member states.10 It also envisaged the conception of supranational institutions of control and arbitration, by the creation of the organisations court of justice, an institutionalized parliament plus an economic and social council which take into account the peculiar characteristics of the region.11

d) Trade Liberalization as a tool for regional integration.

During the 1980�s, the practice of trade liberalization schemes (TLS) and market-oriented economic reform came into full swing in many developing countries escalating in the 1990�s, the West African region was no different and took this stance with the formation of ECOWAS. TLSs are formed on the basis that trade has become progressively extraordinarily significant in the current international economic activity, with empirical evidence showing that annual trade volumes have increased by over fifteen fold over the last five decades.12

Therefore the proponents of TLS argue that the benefits of trade are an important causal factor in the improvement of the standards of living in developing nations.13 This has resulted in restructuring of economies for greater income from foreign exchange through trade liberalisation as contained in the WTO agreements. The advocates of TLSs argue that the removal of tariffs and other barriers of trade will result in products moving to their most resourceful requirement.14 Adam smith states countries �will be most likely to buy cheap, when by the most perfect freedom of trade, it encourages all nations to bring to its goods which it has occasion to purchase; and for the same reason, it will be most likely to sell dear, when its markets are thus filled with the greatest numbers of buyers.�15 Consequently, with TLS the markets will be open, resulting in more trading across borders which would develop competition from external economies, thus causing producers to be more resourceful and resulting in more productive use of natural and human resources.16

This economic openness is the primary objectives of ECOWAS, hence 1975 treaty called for the removal of tariff barriers to trade, the formation of a customs union and a common external tariff for non-members, including the removal of custom duties and taxes which have the same intention for the members.17 This was expected to occur within fifteen years from 1979, the initial two years were designated for the maintenance of the existing custom tariffs, followed by progressively removing all these tariffs and quotas on goods within ten years for the member nations, the remaining five years was for harmonization of the policies and restrictions for non-member states.18

The main protocols vital to trade liberalization were not authorised by the minimum number of states it required, till the end of1976.19 In 1981, efforts were directed towards the creation of an FTA by eradicating the obstacles to joint trade within the West African region on the three important groups of goods that originate from the region which were industrial goods, traditional handicrafts such as woven crafts and lastly unrefined agricultural commodities.20 In 1982, ECOWAS specified the list for these goods to be rather �priority industrial products� or non priority industrial products and that these commodities had to have been manufactured by industries created within the member states and belonging to the agro-chemical, wood, steel and pharmaceutical sectors.21 This decision was termed rules of origin.

The community was not operational till 1990, because ECOWAS was occupied with the creation of the institutions and sub-bodies as well as the authorization of the modus operandi and conferences deemed essential for its success.22 There were little or no results to show for this scheme, consequently a new treaty was ratified which has the basically the same stipulations as the 1975 treaty, but with changes in the time period for achievement of the stipulations and further conditions which address the sources of its failure.23 The new treaty appears more like a piece of legislation rather than a set of unsystematic guidelines, this can be seen even in its basic structure which is 93 articles compared to 65 in the earlier with better detailed aspects and more defined powers for its official and overall member states.

The revised treaty envisaged the accomplishment of a customs union by the year 2000, while the economic and monetary union should be established by 2004. It decrees that �There shall be progressively established in the course of a period of ten (10) years effective from 1 January 1990 as stipulated in Article 54, a Customs Union among the Member States. Within this union, Customs duties or other charges with equivalent effect on Community originating imports shall be eliminated.�24

ECOWAS classified its member nations taking into account its economic strength, because there would be profit deficits during its execution. Therefore the groupings would help reduce the shortfalls which might occur25. See Tab 1.


ECOWAS approved inter-state road transit of goods (ISRT) which allows for free movement of goods between its member states custom offices without the payment of the usually attached custom fees and tax.27 The preamble of the ISRT demands in Article 3; "Transit transport shall not, within the territory of the transit State, be subject to any customs duties, import or export duties, or any special transit taxes levied by the said State". Therefore the goods have to be covered by an Inter-States Road Transit Declaration.28 The ISRT framework is based on the convention which guaranteed its mechanism by the �National guarantors� and further agreements which hold these underwriters for the security of the ISRT within the ECOWAS.29

In 1987 the community started to take on the process of the formation of the single monetary zone and stronger efforts towards the removal of the other barriers in trade.30 They envisaged that a monetary co-operation would bring in better investments and enhance the trading bond within the member states, subsequently smoothing the progress of fiscal dealings with non-member states.31

The steps towards this goal was the formation of the WAMA in 1996, there was a previous organization called WACH which was established after the 1975 treaty that was a collective payment facility to encourage trading within the community.32 This was duly transformed to the specialised agency WAMA, which takes up the functions of its predecessor and is responsible for monitoring, organizing and executing the ECMP, towards the eventual establishment of a single monetary zone which paves the way for a single monetary policy thus a sole currency.33 It essentially observes the economic and financial policies, with the view of guarantying the highest harmonization of the member nation�s economies. Under WAMA, ECOWAS has introduced a West African Unit of Account, it has also adopted a both Credit guarantee scheme and traveller cheque system which can be only converted to the community�s local currency as assessed by IMF internal accounting rate.

Eight members of ECOWAS are part of UEMOA and use the West African CFA francs, consequently forming the first monetary union.34 Thus the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone launched a second monetary union called the WAMZ.35 WAMA is currently being utilized as the link synchronizing the policies between the two monetary unions.36

In the 1999, the community adopted a �Fast Track Approach� towards the formation of a sole regional market.37 This is based on the conjecture that FTA, would lead to the realization of a common market via customs union. Therefore, it implemented the framework of UEMOA�s CET which was already in effect in CFA countries.38

ECOWAS is governed by the Authority of Heads of State or governments which exercises all authority and is control the direction and welfare of the organisation.39 They are followed by a council of ministers that are liable for the decision-making in the various programs and the development of the community.40 Then there is the parliament, the economic and social council which are for consultation purposes. In addition, there is a Court of justice which translates the treaty stipulations and resolves the disagreements that occur between member nations that are brought to its platform.41 The community has an Executive secretary who is appointed by the heads of state, who oversees the organisation for proper adoption of the decree of the supreme power and general welfare of the community.42


There have been various economic, political, social as well as legal reasons plaguing the ECOWAS treaty. As noted earlier, the decree of the treaty was not implemented till 1990. This was three years before the treaty was re-vamped, so it can be construed that the issues which were present earlier still present in the revised treaty. Bearing this in mind, it has to be noted that the supplementary texts included in the revised treaty were politically minded and regional security issues. In order to begin the analysis of the problems affecting these treaties, it will be reasonable to outline certain issues that prompted the late adoption of the1975 treaty.

Regional integration can be traced back to the colonial times, but for this dissertation it would be traced back to the late 1950�s. The late 1950� in West Africa saw decolonisation, with many nations encountering long sought after conditions such as self-governance. Consequently, there was the need for suitable decision-making intended for national development, conversely independence had resulted in the lack of a supreme authority and as a consequence there were rapid grasps for power by varied ranks of people, but principally military dictators. This resulted in numerous civil revolutions, coup d��tats, and economic negligence. Recent study shows that between 1955 and 2004, there have 44 military-led coups d��tat and seven civilian wars, only Cape Verde has been wholly free of these happenings.43

Within this backdrop there were foreign influences due to the regions vast supply of natural resources. After the Cold war, the USA wanted the region to be Capitalist while the USSR wanted communism, these were because of trade reasons and political influence.44 This rivalry coupled with the ties of colonialism from the British, French, Spanish and Portuguese bred tensions and mistrusts between the states and their leaders.

However, in this milieu ECOWAS founded, which was most likely due to Pan-Africanism. According to Ambassador Dudley Thompson this concept is �It is very difficult, if at all possible to give a clear and exact definition of Pan-Africanism. It means different things to different people. To some it should be confined to the continent; to others, it is a hazy emotional dream embodying resentment against those institutions of inequality which exist; yet to others it is a cry of racial pride emphasizing negritude, but in all its complexity, one can discern a hard core which is a common factor. This hard core includes the intellectual, political and economic cooperation that should lead to the political unity of all Africa. In short, it stands for the economic, technological, social and political advancement and modernization of Africa and the Diasporas, and rejects all forms of racial prejudice against black people.�45

It can be postulated that this concept, Pan-africanism and the envisaged benefits of regional integration were the reasons for the formation of ECOWAS. This is because the member states could use this arrangement to enhance their participation in the world trade and secure advantages globally, while shortening their extended reliance on advanced countries.

One of the major issues plaguing the 1975 treaty, was the framework which was reduced the objectives strictly to an economic affair. This contributed to the failure of the RIA, as amalgamation represents much wider and comprehensive actions which require the member states to carry out specific political and fiscal obligations as well as compromise or even sacrifices, hence proving that there is a pragmatic desire towards the objectives of the policy. The member nations have been not been able to implement the modus operandi and verdicts of the community. However, this inability has been due to a number of reasons including those itemised above combined with the peculiarity of the region.

The major disappointment is the liberalization of trade scheme, this proposal failed in the first treaty because the member nations were still implementing the institutions, authorising the officials and generally setting up the networks which it could use to perform its objectives. This included synchronization of the customs catalogue, adoption of common regulations and so on.46

Another barrier to TLS was due structural adjustment programmes which were mandatory resulting on negative effect on the trade industry.47 These SAPs were economic policies provided for developing countries in the 1980�s by the IMF/World Bank, loans were provided on the basis that their policies were accepted.48 Theses loans were designed to remove the disproportionate government rule while encouraging competition in the markets according to the Neo-liberalist ideology that supports globalization.49 SAPs made member nations reluctant to implement the stipulations of the liberalization policy because industries were shutting down around them due to this incentive.50 This was because the SAPs had resulted in reducing the installed productive capacity of businesses by over 25% due to lack of input and aggregate demand and its call for currency devaluation had inflated the currency costs of production and intensified liquidity issues, especially in the English-speaking countries within the community.51

Secondly, during the adoption of the 1975 treaty over 40% of government revenue was generated from collecting trade taxes52, therefore this reliance on trade taxes made the politicians in the region guarded against policies that would threaten their profits resulting in non-compliance within the states.53

Thirdly, the rules of origin provision of the in the 1975 treaty which was meant to tender special treatment towards the goods produced by businesses owned principally by West Africans resulted in a standstill in the liberalization scheme. Kofi Kufuor argues that this provision in the treaty was added significantly by Nigeria and Ghana who wanted to ensure that their indigenised foreign-owned companies survived, compared to the French owned firms in Senegal and Cote d�Ivoire.54 This is because if the ROO was implemented without the clause of its ownership, the benefits would have been reaped mainly by the French-firms, as they would easily extend into other West African economies especially the Nigerian were there are vast advantages.55 Therefore, this kicked in protectionism for the Ghanaian and Nigerian policy-makers, who would have lost potential foreign interests in industries which were just commencing.

This has resulted in low intra-regional trade via three modes of action acting sequentially. The first is that because the francophone countries refused to reduce the tariffs on the goods from the other member states, the other member states decided to do the exact opposite.56 The second consequence of the ROO, was that its addition to the treaty resulted in only seventeen manufacturing companies in the region passing the proviso 57, consequently with such an insignificant amount of firms participating in the scheme, there were little or no envisaged benefits for the region.58

The third outcome was that the segregation ended in the massive amounts of un-official trade between the borders of the member states due to the creation of a �fake� scarcity.59 This resulted devaluations in Nigeria and Ghana because of francophone manufactured goods being imported resulting in overvaluing the CFA franc.60 However, other non-priority products resulted in the same trend but from the Nigeria and Ghana towards the francophone countries.61 This smuggling is estimated to cost the member states a fortune, on the other hand it benefits small scale distributors because its is cheaper, besides it has produced income for fraudulent officials who have vested interests in this unofficial trade who in turn could participate in frustrating the regional cooperation.62

Other sources of problems for the ECOWAS lies in the lack of a political will to implement the decree of the organisation.63 This is given as a reason for the amount of intra-regional trade within the community.64 This is theorized to be due to the colonial backgrounds of the member states,65 for instance the Anglophone countries were ruled in an indirect system by the British, and the French ruled the Francophone countries with a much closer direct rule. This is thought to have affected their political beliefs and external partnerships66

In addition, due the nature of the governments established in the member nations which have been mostly from barely credible means67, there is an incongruity between the existing economies and ruling classes resulting in associations between the member states to be considered insignificant when compared to the integrations further from the region.68 This can be shown in the relations between UEMOA and ECOWAS, in which the UEMOA countries eagerness in giving up sovereignty on significant issues.69 McCarthy argues that it is difficult (if not impossible) to remove tangible material gains that will be obtained from implementation of certain policies to those that will be obtained in return, that this affects the timing as well as the implementation of schemes.70 This is because of the disparities in the distribution of benefits and the lack of any satisfactory reimbursement method.71 Although, there was an ECOWAS fund which was to be used for the reimbursement due to the loss associated with the openness of their markets, however the framework of this fund was that the member nations were to make specific contributions which would later be shared appropriately. It has been shown that from its inception till the 1990�s, only three countries had made contributions and to compound the issue only 1.3 WAUA had been pledged.72

Additionally, the structure of ECOWAS at its commencement prevented the execution of these stipulations, as the staff had were mainly there for administrative duties which enable the running of the community�s sub-bodies. They had no decision-making capacity and this is coupled with the problem of legal enforcement, because the court of justice has no legal jurisdiction except when cases are presented before it.73 This can be compared to the EU union which has been successful partly due to the ability of its Court of justice to play a significant role in the development of its law74; the absence of this structure in ECOWAS diminishes its control and directives towards regional integration.

Lansana Kouyate states that there is no harmonization between the ministerial bodies resulting in the information on the progress of the integration lacking continuity.75 [S]he argues that information is not passed from one ministry to the other, and this can be seen in some issues in which the ministers in one country opposes the decisions of another minister during the final council of ministers.76 This apparently produces contradictions, retarding the implementation of decisions in the region. In addition, signatures are attached, even though there are doubts on its application and these issues still exist after the revision of the treaty, which made ECOWAS a supranational body. 77 Moreover, it has been argued that West African nations exercise repressive power, as the national policy-makers are only interested in enriching themselves, but not changing the policies of their countries to favour growth and improve living standards78

In addition, the objectives of ECOWAS are very comprehensive and are concerned with the orchestration of the policies of numerous sectors within the region. Bearing in mind that the countries are at varying stages of economic growth and have their own internal commitments, it is safe to say that they will consider some goals more important the others, hence this could act as an incentive for joining a regional scheme as it might meet what they consider their current important objectives. For illustration purposes, the establishment of a free trade area might be more important to Cape Verde, while to Nigeria the establishment of a customs union, this could therefore result in both nations pushing a certain area for their own interests rather than the organisation as a whole thereby frustrating the efforts of TLS and subsequently regional integration.

One of the major issues facing ECOWAS, is the fact that some of its member countries belong to other arrangements, as allowed by the treaty. However, the outcome is that the countries involved have divided loyalties and overlapping objectives which build mistrust and excessive financial commitments.79 Therefore, the effectiveness of one group tends to be due to undermining the other, as all the requirements cannot be met simultaneously.80 This can be seen with the ECOWAS and UEMOA, the members of the community were charged with the establishment of a custom union.

UEMOA was formed in 1994, it has realised a greater amount of integration than ECOWAS due to its cohesive nature favoured by the same currency, colonial setting and �the French factor�.81 Despite the fact that ECOWAS was created earlier, the tariffs and quota between UEMOA members states have been abolished and the CET have been adopted.82 Various scholars have argued that UEMOA has an unprofessed intention of counteracting the dominance of the Nigerian economy.83

Kufuor Kofi contends that the fear towards Nigeria stems from its role as the regional hegemony, which could be of benefit to the community or might have negative effects.84 He asserts that there has to be the existence of a supreme country for an open system to survive, and goes on to imply that the costs and benefits will not be equal for the member nations.85 This would result in increasing the rate of growth in political, economic and military of the hegemon, but it could result in the hegemon keeping back foreign funding, and engaging in competition which is harmful for the weaker states especially in under developed markets in the region.86 In essence the gains of Nigeria affect the success of ECOWAS which is properly evidenced in the 1970�s during its formation. As the largest economy, it accepted the duty of being the hegemon, but during the 1983 there was a decline in the price of oil which is the main source of its revenue from exportation.87 Thus the outcome affected ECOWAS as the country was no longer enthusiastic in bearing the disproportionate costs of economic integration88, this can be seen with the expulsion of foreigners from its grounds which violates the free movement of people and establishment provisions in the treaty.

This point of view can be further seen when considering the negative effects of regional instability on TLS and the RIA. During the early years of ECOWAS, there were various civil wars within the region, particularly the Liberian conflict which could have over-spilled damaging the West African region. Therefore, certain member nations such as Nigeria decided to intervene, but Cote d�Ivoire asked for the respect of sovereignty. The Nigerian president Ibrahim Babangida stated at the Abuja summit �Permit me at this juncture to remind us all of the basic principles which formed the foundation stone of our organisation. The noble ideals of the ECOWAS were anchored on solidarity, unity, mutual trust and good neighbourliness. We should always uphold these principal ingredients in our dealings with one another�89

This resulted in the transfer of troops, logistics and finance in form of ECOMOG in 1990; the troops were contributed by the Anglophone nations, while the francophone countries not supporting intervention.90 This contributed to the end of the hostilities which were caused by the Charles Taylor overthrowing the government of then President Samuel Doe.91 It has been documented that 75% of the troops and 90% of the funding for the ECOMOG intervention was contributed by Nigeria.92 This demonstrates one of the few successes of ECOWAS. On the other hand, it brings to light the antagonism between the Anglophone and francophone countries, especially their powerhouses Nigeria and Cote d�Ivoire. It shows that both nations are politically divergent, and these may be to the detriment of the implementation of RIA.

David Francis argues that �The geographical location of Nigeria invariably means that the country�s national security is tied to the sub-region. This creates the perception of itself as the regional hegemon with the right to intervene in West Africa and when necessary. The two assumptions of Nigeria�s African-centred foreign and security policy approach, in terms of threat perception are: that regional political instability or an unstable Africa is a threat to national security; and that Nigeria�s security can be subverted by extra-regional powers acting in co-operation with African states�93

This is deemed to be a valid point as economic integration has been viewed to be due to pan Africanism, it can be asserted that regional peace is a practical step to ensure success, conversely it has to be stated that the francophone nations might view the hegemony of Nigeria as part of �neo-colonialism�. Nevertheless, the request for intervention is considered valid, on the justification of the nature of wars which causes the displacement of people, gross human right catastrophes and excessive death. It also had effects on ECOWAS such as reducing unity among states, breeding mistrust as well as prolonging the RIA.94

Therefore, the answer the question presented is No the revised ECOWAS treaty has not addressed the issues plaguing its predecessor. The above issues still persist and considering that implementation of the RIA was unsuccessful till 1990 and the amendment of the treaty was already taking place. Subsequently, allowing for the causes of impediment which are mainly political and behavioural, it can be argued that the problems are not due to the structure of ECOWAS but due to the reluctance to implement its decree. It can be claimed that despite the fact that the treaty was revisited, the changes that occurred were mostly institutional. This is evidenced by the addition of security policies and social policies, these additions do not address the major issues discussed above. For instance, it does not tackle the Anglophone vs. Francophone problem which seem to affect the policies.

The CEP which was established to review the treaty, have succeeded in only identifying ambiguity of the rules, the elitist nature of the treaty and the lack of supra-nationalism.95 These have been incorporated into the new treaty. Till date ECOWAS has only shown 11% intra regional trade, therefore it can be deduced that TLS is still not being implemented after revision. The community�s free trade area and common external tariff is neither operational, evidencing that the problems still persist.

On a positive note, ECOWAS has progressed in the implementation of the free movement of persons, construction of regional roads and telecommunication links between the member states.96 It has also been involved in regional security and peacekeeping in Sierra-Leone, Guinea Bissau and the aforementioned Liberia.97 Further provisions were added to address the root of conflicts such as instability and corruption, plus conflict prevention and peace which try to prevent issues that cause these issues like the absence of free and fair elections which aim to prevent unconstitutional changes in the government.

Rasul Shams argues that �While Nigeria is the driving force behind the formation of the ECOWAS, at the same time it hinders its development to a mature regional organisation in order to protect its own national interest.�98 He states that there is an absence of the distinction between integration and co-operation, therefore the self-image of the community is contradictory and can result in developments that are not really features of useful for regional integration.99 Finn Laursen disagrees with these to an extent, he suggests that it is not evidenced that Nigerian economy wants to use the benefits of ECOWAS unilaterally and suggest that the claims have emanated from the francophone nations to deal with their refusal from the onset to play a substantial role in the RIA.100

It can therefore be suggested that ECOWAS needs to redefine its role within the region; it has to look at other RIAs and take their successes and adapt them to the African region. There could be a Court of Justice which should be autonomous but made up of individuals from the region which should attempt to implement the rules and deal with noncompliance. Nevertheless, it cannot be assumed that these would be uncomplicated missions, thus there is need for proper calculation and possible reduction of expenses of RIA, or an incentive for member states. This can help facilitate the implementation of the stipulations, especially in the TLS because it can be postulated that successes in this area, are bound to give the confidence required for participation in the other schemes.

Article name: Comparative Analysis Has The Revised Ecowas Treaty Politics essay, research paper, dissertation