The Economic Integration
The ECOWAS Secretariat and the Fund for Cooperation, Compensation and Development are its two main institutions to implement ECOWAS policies. The ECOWAS Fund was transformed into the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development in 2001.
In 2000, five ECOWAS members formed the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) aiming to establish a strong stable currency, “eco”, to rival the CFA franc, whose exchange rate is tied to that of the euro and is guaranteed by the French Treasury. The eventual goal is for the CFA franc and Eco to merge, giving all of West and Central Africa a single stable currency. The launch of the new currency is being prepared by the West African Monetary Institute based in Accra, Ghana. This is intended to be the forerunner of a common central bank. However, several of the WAMZ’s countries suffer from weak currencies and chronic budget deficits which are currently plugged by their central banks printing more and more notes of decreasing the real value.
ECOWAS Structure and Decision-making procedures
ECOWAS consists of the Authority of Heads of State and Government, the Council of Ministers, the Community Tribunal, Community Court of Justice, the Executive Secretariat the ECOWAS Parliament, and the Specialised Commissions.
Conference of Heads of State and Government
The Authority of Heads of State and Government of Member States is the supreme institution of the Community and is composed of Heads of State and/or Government of Member States. The Authority is responsible for the general direction and control of the Community and takes all measures to ensure its progressive development and the realization of its objectives.
The Authority determines the general policy and major guidelines of the Community and gives directives. It harmonizes and co-ordinates the economic, scientific, technical, cultural and social policies of Member States; oversees the functioning of Community institutions and follow-up implementation of Community objectives; prepares and adopts its Rules of Procedure; appoints the Executive Secretary in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty; appoints on the recommendation of Council, the External Auditors; delegates to the Council, where necessary, the authority to take such decisions as stipulated in the Treaty; refers where it deems necessary any matter to the Community Court of Justice when it confirms, that a Member State or institution of the Community has failed to honour any of its obligations or an institution of the Community has acted beyond the limits of its authority or has abused the powers conferred on it by the provisions of the Treaty, by a decision of the Authority or a regulation of the Council; requests the Community Court of Justice as, and when necessary, to give advisory opinion on any legal questions; and exercises any other powers conferred on it under the Treaty.
The Authority meets at least once a year in ordinary session. An extraordinary session may be convened by the Chairman of the Authority or at the request of a Member State provided that such a request is supported by a simple majority of the Member States. The office of the Chairman is held every year by a Member State elected by the Authority.
Council of Ministers
The Council comprises the Minister in charge of ECOWAS Affairs and any other Minister of each Member State. Council is responsible for the functioning and development of the Community. To this end, unless otherwise provided in the Treaty or a Protocol, Council makes recommendations to the Authority on any action aimed at attaining the objectives of the Community and appoints all statutory appointees other than the Executive Secretary. By the powers delegated to it by the Authority, the Council issues directives on matters concerning coordination and harmonization of economic integration policies. It makes recommendations to the Authority on the appointment of the External Auditors, prepares and adopt its rules of procedure, and carries out all other functions assigned to it. under this Treaty and exercise, all powers delegated to it by the Authority.
The Council meets at least twice a year in ordinary session. One of such sessions has immediately preceded by the ordinary session of the Authority. An extraordinary session may be convened by the Chairman of Council or at the request of a Member State provided that such request is supported by a simple majority of the Member States. The office of Chairman of Council is held by the Minister responsible for ECOWAS Affairs of the Member State elected as Chairman of the Authority.
The treaty provides for a Community Tribunal, whose composition and competence are determined by the Conference of Heads of State and Government. The Tribunal interprets the provisions of the treaty and settles disputes between member states that are referred to it.
Community Court of Justice
In October 1999, ECOWAS decided to establish a Court of Justice following a two-day meeting of Justice Ministers in Abuja. The court will address complaints from member states and institutions of ECOWAS, as well as issues relating to defaulting nations. The court has a president, chief registrar and seven judges and is a permanent institution. Draft rules of procedure for the Court are being finalised.
The Executive Secretary is elected for a four-year term, which may be renewed once only. ECOWAS is undergoing a process of reform, which has seen the post of the financial controller being scrapped, while two positions of deputy executive secretaries have been created for economic co-operation and policy harmonisation respectively. The restructuring of the Executive Secretariat was approved at the summit in December 1999.
The ECOWAS Parliament plays an essentially consultative role: it provides the advisory opinion on issues covering a wide range of areas that are of crucial importance for the integration process. These include respect for human rights, the interconnection of communication and telecommunication links, health, education, and revisions of basic community texts. A Decision dated 12 January 2006 defines the process by which regional executives can make referrals to the Parliament. It also specifies the timeframes within which recommendations and requests for advisory opinion are to be formulated and transmitted to the ECOWAS Parliament.
The ECOWAS Parliament has 115 seats, which are distributed among the 15 ECOWAS Member States on the basis of their population. Nigeria, which has by far the largest population, has 35 seats; Togo, Liberia, Cape Verde, Guinea Conakry, Guinea Bissau, Republic of Benin, the Gambia, Sierra Leone have 5 Parliamentarians each; Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Senegal have 6 Parliamentarians each; Cote d’Ivoire is entitled to 7 representatives; Ghana has 8.
The Parliament’s political organs are the plenary, the Bureau, the Conference of Bureaux and the parliamentary standing committees. A General Secretariat, under the authority of the Speaker of Parliament, is responsible for the administration of Parliament.
The Specialised Commissions are: Food and Agriculture; Industry, Science and Technology and Energy; Environment and Natural Resources; Transport, Communications and Tourism; Trade, Customs, Taxation, Statistics, Money and Payments; Political, Judicial and Legal Affairs, Regional Security and Immigration; Human Resources, Information, Social and Cultural Affairs; Administration and Finance Commission.
The Authority may, whenever it deems appropriate, restructure the existing Commissions or establish new Commissions. Each commission comprises representatives of each Member State. Each Commission may, as it deems necessary, set up subsidiary commissions to assist it in carrying out its work. It determines the composition of any such subsidiary commission.