ECOWAS - Trade and Market Integration

Trade and market integration are at the heart of ECOWAS’ aims and objectives. Article (3) of the Revised Treaty of ECOWAS stipulates the removal of trade barriers and harmonization of trade policies for the establishment of a Free Trade Area, a Customs Union, a Common Market and an eventual culmination in to a Monetary and Economic Union in West Africa.

The ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) adopted in 1979 with an agreement on agricultural, artisanal handicrafts and unprocessed products, and extended to industrial products in 1990, is the main framework for trade and market integration in ECOWAS as it addresses protocols on the free movement of goods, persons and transportation. The ETLS main pursuit of consolidating the free trade area is guided by the National Approval Committees that informs the member States. For this purpose, ECOWAS established an ETLS website to ease harmonization and usage of it[1]. In this regard, ECOWAS has implemented a Customs and Connectivity programme to simplify the movement of goods in the region. The ECOWAS Common External Tariff has thus been operational since 2015. Moreover, member States are increasingly implementing the ECOWAS Single Customs Declaration Form for their customs administrations. The World Bank sponsored Abidjan-Lagos Trade and Transport Facilitation Programme for Benin and Nigeria is one such example. Burkina Faso and Togo are likewise operationalizing the scheme. Nevertheless, challenges in regards to poor domestication of the ETLS is an issue that need to be addressed for deepened trade and market integration in the ECOWAS region.[2]

ECOWAS is also working in three areas to promote investments and competition policies, namely: creation of the ECOWAS Common Investment Market, investment climate promotion and financial market integration. The ECOWAS Investment Forum and the ECOWAS online resource for monitoring the investment climate are such initiatives[3].[4]

West Africa-European Union negotiations of an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) were concluded on 30 June 2014 with the initiating of an agreed text by Chief Negotiators. In July 2014, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Heads of State endorsed the EPA and opened it up for signature by Member States. To date, 13 ECOWAS member States over 15 have signed the Agreement. The Gambia and Nigeria are the two remaining member countries that have not yet signed, besides Mauritania[5].


[1] ECOWAS “ABOUT ETLS” Available from


[3] ECOWAS “BizClimWest Africa Investment Climate Indicators and Database” Available from

[4] African Union, Highlights - Status of Regional Integration in Africa V, 2014.

[5] ECOWAS, “Economic Partnership Agreement” Available from