The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is the main regional economic community in West Africa. According to the African Union, ECOWAS is considered as one of the major regional economic communities whose contribution to the acceleration of the integration process of the continent is likely to have a considerable impact on areas such as trade, free movement of goods and persons and monetary matters. ECOWAS is a 15-member regional group with a mandate to promote economic, social and cultural cooperation and integration. As a trading union, it is also meant to create an economic and monetary bloc.
After over 42 years of existence, this regional economic community has made significant strides towards the achievement of regional integration. Its major achievements in its quest to create a common regional market include the: (a) adoption and implementation of protocols on free movement of goods and persons and the right of residence and establishment, (b) creation of a free trade area with the implementation of the Trade Liberalization Scheme since 1979; and (c) entry into force of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff in January 2015, which is a major step forward in the creation of a customs union.
ECOWAS and its Member States have signed bilateral and continental trade agreements, notable among which are the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), signed by 44 out of the 55 member countries of the African Union, at a Summit of Heads of State and Government in Kigali in April 2018.