What Are the Major Problems Facing ECOWAS?

Major problems facing the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, include political instability and poor governance of member states, weakness and lack of diversification of national economies, poor or absent infrastructures for transportation and communications, and an abundance of similar organizations with the same objectives. ECOWAS also faces various social problems endemic to the region and the indifference to progress manifested by some of its members.

One of the social problems that hinder the achievement of the economic and political goals of ECOWAS is the lack of women’s rights in the region. Its main program to eliminate disparity between men and women is the Gender Development Center in Dakar, Senegal. Health care is another concern, and corruption at border crossings hinders the free flow of humanitarian aid. Elimination of the individual passports of member states in favor of a common ECOWAS passport is a way of addressing this problem.

Another major problem is human trafficking, especially of women and children, but a lack of statistics and other information hinders law enforcement. Public safety concerns include the lack of building codes and infrastructure sufficient to handle natural disasters in the region.

ECOWAS was created in May 1975 with the Treaty of Lagos. Its long-term goals for the countries of West Africa include a common currency, a common economic market, a court of justice, a West African parliament, a mutual defense protocol and other common social and economic councils.