Support programme for the ECOWAS Commission

Programme description

Title: Support programme for the ECOWAS Commission
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Various African countries; based in Nigeria
Lead executing agency: The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); ECOWAS Commission
Overall term: 2010 to 2019

Logo Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)


The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was established in 1975 with the purpose of promoting economic integration and cooperation in the region. Since then, ECOWAS has continually widened the scope of its activities and has extended its remit to include cultural and social aspects, such as conflict prevention, conflict management and strengthening of civil society.

In 2007, the ECOWAS Executive Secretariat underwent a change of institutional structure to become a Commission. This change has broadened the impact of the organisation’s work and has brought new momentum to the regional integration process. Its member countries have pledged to respect and uphold human rights. The organisation is also committed to democracy and other principles of good governance.

Today, it provides an important forum for cooperation between its members, with the Commission assuming the role of a facilitator and mediator in conflict prevention, harmonisation and integration. In comparison with other regional economic communities, ECOWAS is one of the most experienced and most active in Africa.

Despite its successes and effective structural transformation, however, the ECOWAS Commission still needs to improve its institutional management skills and processes. This is necessary in order to support and further reinforce the regional integration process in the member countries.


The ECOWAS Commission is increasingly contributing to the improved management, implementation and monitoring of ECOWAS policy decisions in relation to economics, trade, peace and security.


The basic methodology of the programme consists in promoting the specialist expertise and strategic management structures and capacity of the ECOWAS Commission. It assists with the formulation and implementation of regional agreements on taxes, custom duties and trade and of reform processes in conflict prevention and mediation.

The programme comprises three closely interlinked components:

  1. In terms of organisational development, the programme seeks to strengthen the strategic orientation of the ECOWAS Commission. It promotes the establishment of a regional monitoring and evaluation system for programmes implemented by ECOWAS. In addition, the programme supports the personnel management unit and other internal management units of the ECOWAS Commission.
  2. In terms of trade and custom duties, the programme advises on the further development and implementation of the Common External Tariff (CET) and on the reform of procedures for duty-free trade in local products in the region. It also assists with the development of a regional tax policy. The implementing partners are the Directorate of Trade and the Directorate of Customs in the Department of Tourism, Trade, Customs and Free Movement.
  3. In terms of peace and security, the programme supports the deployment of civilian experts within the framework of the peacekeeping operations of the ECOWAS Standby Force. In addition, it advises the ECOWAS Commission on long-term election observation missions and on the further development of conflict early warning systems and mediation mechanisms in the region.


The heads of state and government have approved the ECOWAS Community Strategic Framework 2016-2020, thereby defining the political priorities of the integration process in the region. Key players from civil society and the private sector have been more closely involved in negotiating uniform regional standards and procedures, such as early warning of conflicts and harmonisation of tax rates. An operational monitoring and evaluation system has also been introduced and extended to the member countries in order to enable the ECOWAS Commission to assess the progress made in the regional integration process.

The ECOWAS Commission was advised by the programme during the negotiations on the Common External Tariff (CET). A total of 14 of the 15 members of ECOWAS apply the CET, which entered into force in 2015. Through training and awareness-raising measures, the programme has trained more than 2,600 customs officials and freight forwarders on the correct application of the CET. The tariffs are published on the websites of the customs authorities; as a result, customs duty is a known quantity for traders in the ECOWAS region that can be factored into their costs. Another success of the programme is the adoption of a regional customs code that will harmonise not only the customs tariffs but also the customs procedures in the future.

The number of regional products traded on a duty-free basis has doubled since 2014 (1,767 products in 2017 as compared to 870 products in 2014). The registration of local companies and products for the duty-free movement of regional goods now only takes a maximum of 63 days instead of 90 days, as was previously the case. In addition, more than 3,000 people from the public and private sector have attended information events on the process of registering for duty-free trade in goods in the region.

Since 2015, ECOWAS has posted 57 long-term election observers. Ten national elections have taken place in the region during this period. The process of observing events over several months in the run-up to the election as well as on the election day itself has contributed to the peaceful resolution of potential conflicts. The programme supported both the introduction of long-term election observation missions and the deployment of election observers.