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: Africa, transnational (located 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 regional cooperation and economic integration. Since then it has gradually widened the scope of its activities. Today it also carries out cultural and social activities such as conflict management and prevention tasks and strengthens civil society.

In 2007, ECOWAS changed its central institution from an Executive Secretariat to a Commission, which has made the organisation more effective and given the regional integration process a new dynamic. The Member States have committed themselves to observing and promoting human rights, democracy and other principles of good governance.

Today the organisation provides an important forum for cooperation amongst its Member States, with the Commission playing the role of a moderator for conflict prevention, harmonisation and integration. Compared to other regional economic communities, ECOWAS is by far the oldest, most experienced and most active on the African continent.

However, despite the Commission’s successes and its effective transformation, various challenges persist in terms of its institutional management capacity and its management processes. These need to be addressed if the organisation is to support and expand the regional integration process in its Member States.


The ECOWAS Commission plays an increasingly important role in improving the steering, implementation and monitoring of ECOWAS policy decisions related to economics and trade and peace and security.


The support programme to the ECOWAS Commission operates on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Its basic approach is to strengthen the sector-specific expertise of the ECOWAS Commission and enhance its strategic management structures and capacities. This support intends to facilitate the design and implementation of regional agreements on taxes, customs, tariffs and other trade-related issues, while also encouraging reform processes in peace building, conflict prevention and mediation. For specific projects, the programme also operates with co-financing from the European Union.

The programme consists of three components:

  1. Organisational development for the ECOWAS Commission. The programme supports strategic planning, communication and coordination as well as monitoring and capacity development within the ECOWAS Commission. This component supports the Commission’s self-reliant steering of its work, and its more precise alignment with its strategic goals. The other components also benefit from these measures.

  2. Trade and customs. This component targets the capacities of the ECOWAS Commission to design and implement its trade policy and to promote trade, both within West Africa and between the region and the rest of the world. It supports the introduction of the Common External Tariff (CET) throughout the ECOWAS region. Other services include providing advice on legal changes and offering training and workshops for customs administrations in the Member States. The programme is currently implementing the project ‘Promoting West African Trade Integration (WATIP)’, which is co-funded by the EU and BMZ. WATIP aims at improving the implementation and coordination of the regional economic integration process, increasing trade and establishing a customs union in West Africa.

  3. Peace and security. The programme fosters cooperation between key actors in the Political Affairs and the Peace and Security Departments and strengthens the institutional capacities of the ECOWAS Commission. It provides strategic support for the finalisation and adoption of national mechanisms in order to link early warning to early response effectively in the ECOWAS region. Additionally, it advises the civilian component of the ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF) on developing a framework to operationalise its civilian dimension. It also builds the capacity of the police component to improve its coordination role in peace-keeping operations in the region.

The programme is part of the larger programme ‘Advising the ECOWAS Commission on strengthening economic and political integration within ECOWAS’. This programme involves Germany’s national metrology institute, the Physikalisch Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB), which is working to establish a regional quality management infrastructure.


  1. Organisational development for the ECOWAS Commission. Thanks to an operational monitoring and evaluation system, which was introduced and extended to the Member States, the ECOWAS Commission has acquired the capacity to assess progress made in the regional integration process.

  2. Trade and customs. Greater awareness has been generated about the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme thanks to the creation of a website and a clear and comprehensible brochure in English, French and Portuguese. At the same time, the scheme’s procedures have been simplified and harmonised.
    The programme advised the ECOWAS Commission during negotiations on the Common External Tariff (CET). ECOWAS has now finalised the CET, external tariffs have been standardised and customs records published. The programme is currently supporting its introduction by organising training and awareness-raising measures and creating a monitoring instrument that will help implement the CET in all 15 Member States.

  3. Peace and security. With the support of the programme, the civilian dimension of the ESF was introduced and its police dimension was strengthened.
    Several initiatives, such as the creation of a database of trained election observers and other necessary personnel, have helped professionalise and strengthen the capacities and professionalism of ECOWAS election observation.