ECOWAS: Forty Years on, What Prospects for the Future?
ropelled by a strong desire to reposition West Africa onto the path of economic development, the Heads of P State and Government established the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in 1975. The Treaty of

Lagos, creating ECOWAS, was signed by 15 countries with the key objective of promoting regional integration through the coordination and promotion of economic cooperation. In the 40 years of its existence, the Community has been confronted with a plethora of political, social and economic issues. The early 1990s witnessed civil wars in member states such as Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cote D’Ivoire. Unconstitutional changes of government through coup d’état were almost a constant feature in the region, leading to the perception of West Africa as a region prone to undemocratic and unstable governments. However, today all the states have democratically elected governments. Unconstitutional changes of government are no longer tolerated within ECOWAS. More recently, Ebola, another seemingly insoluble problem facing the region, has been contained. In spite of challenges from piracy, terrorism and poor infrastructure to corruption and conflict due to natural resources, the future looks bright for West Africa and ECOWAS: as the Community transits from the ECOWAS of States to an ECOWAS of People. This special edition of West Africa Insight examines ECOWAS at 40 and how far it has actualised its vision and mission since its inception. Contributors Babatunde Afolabi, Ayuba Larab and Terfa Hemen reflect on the ECOWAS framework for conflict prevention, peace-keeping and stabilisation. They opine that the Community’s experiences, particularly in the early 1990s, led to the adoption of peace and security as its cornerstones. Tracing its achievement as the first regional organisation to undertake a Peace Support Operation (PSO), our contributors argue that it was the security-first approach of ECOWAS to development and integration that influenced member states to adopt the same. Kopep Dabugat in his contribution on agriculture puts forward the view that the adoption of the ECOWAS Agricultural Policy (ECOWAP) is a springboard for attaining food security in the region. However he goes on to warn that demographic pressures on natural resources, poor development of water resources and climate change all constitute critical challenges that will impact the region in the future. The ECOWAS response to public health emergencies in the region is also examined in this edition of West Africa Insight. The focus of Chris Kwaja’s article is the devastating nature of epidemics such as Ebola, Lassa fever and cholera, among others. According to Kwaja, the challenges associated with a weak epidemiological surveillance system, lack of adequate preparedness and lack of financial and logistical resources are responsible for the inability of ECOWAS to adequately respond to emergencies with enormous humanitarian consequences. He concludes with calls for increased mobilisation of human and financial resources. In his contribution on free movement protocol and regional migration, Nengak Gondyi argues that although ECOWAS encompasses the largest free-movement corridor in Africa, challenges to regional mobility still persist. Solomon Eborah evaluates the contribution of the ECOWAS Court – the principal legal organ of the Community with the mandate for judicial enforcement of applicable laws. Formally inaugurated 26 years after ECOWAS was established, Eborah argues that the Court is confronted with the huge challenge of enforcement in the light of the unwillingness of both member states of the Community and their citizens to adhere to the Court’s decisions. The journey towards economic integration remains one of the major challenges confronting ECOWAS. For Akpan Ekpo, economic integration represents the foundational basis for the establishment of the organisation 40 years ago. Though ECOWAS has strived to attain the economic integration key to its founding aim, Ekpo argues that lack of coordination among member states impedes its efforts. There is no doubt that the reflections on ECOWAS at 40 as captured in this special edition of West Africa Insight, are an important contribution by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) to the on-going discussions on how to better reposition ECOWAS on the path towards peace, security, good governance, economic growth and development in the West African region. Happy Reading…