History Of West Africa

Before the creation of ECOWAS, the collective territory known as West Africa, was made up of an aggregation of states that had emerged from different colonial experiences and administrations which largely defined the boundaries of the 15 states domiciled in the area.

Even though Member States of the community now make use of three official languages (English, French and Portuguese), there are well over a thousand existing local languages including cross-border native tongues such as Ewe, Fulfulde, Hausa, Mandingo, Wolof, Yoruba, Ga, etc. that constitute its over 300 million people tucked in a vast land of about 5.1 million square kilometres.
Prior to colonialism, the area played host to many proud empires and kingdoms that spanned centuries, some of which included Ghana, Mali Songhai, Wolof, Oyo, Benin and Kanem Bornu.

The region’s cultural, linguistic and ecological diversity presents both opportunities and challenges for the integration process. The longing to combine forces politically and economically has always been recognised as a step forward in the desire to engender co-prosperity in the area.

In this regard, the first effort at integration dates back to 1945 with the creation of CFA franc that brought the francophone countries of the region into a single currency union. Then in 1964, Liberian president William Tubman proposed an economic union for West Africa leading to an agreement which was signed in 1965 by the four states of Cote d’Ivore, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

However, it was not until 1972 that a proposal for a union of West African States emerged. That year, the Nigerian head of state Gen Yakubu Gowon and his Togolese counterpart Gnassingbe Eyadema toured the region in support of the integration Idea. Thanks to the drafts that emanated from their efforts. These formed the basis for the emergence of the treaty of Lagos in 1975 which birthed ECOWAS. The treaty of Lagos was originally touted as an economic initiative, but emerging political events led to its revision and there with the expansion of scope and powers in 1993.

ECOWAS is meant to foster interstate economic and political cooperation. History is on its side in this regard. Dating back to pre-colonial times, West Africans have been among the world’s most mobile populations although much of the migration had been intra-regional. About 7.5 million West African migrants (3 percent of the regional population) are living in ECOWAS countries other than their own. The 1.2 million other migrants are dispersed mainly in North America and Europe. Estimated at about 149 million in 2013, women constitute over 50 percent of the region’s population. The cross-border migration of women as traders and business persons places them as potential champions for promoting integration. This reality needs to be fully exploited.

The diverse socio-cultural dimension of development should be a necessary building block for establishing peace and security in the region. Drawing strength from its past, leaders of the community have been making sacrifices to keep the shape of the political structure of the region. In 1976, Cape Verde, one of the two Lusophone countries in the region joined ECOWAS, and in December 2000, Mauritania withdrew its membership.

At all times, ECOWAS chief executive officers presiding initially as Executive Secretaries and now as Presidents, defer to the supreme organ of the community-the Authority of the Heads of State of Government for guidance. This body is usually headed by a Chairman. According to Economic Community Of West African States ECOWAS.

The 15 members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.

Below are West African Countries by capital, official language, land area, and currency .

1. Republic of Chad

Capital: N’Djamena

Official language: French and Arabic

Area: 1,284,000 square kilometers

Currency: Central African CFA franc

2. Republic of the Niger

Capital: Niamey

Official language: French

Area: 1,267,000 square kilometers

Currency: West African CFA franc

3. Republic of Mali

Capital: Bamako

Official language: French

Area: 1,240,192 square kilometers

Currency: West African CFA franc

4. Islamic Republic of Mauritania

Capital: Nouakchott

Official language: Arabic

Area: 1,030,000 square kilometers

Currency: Ouguiya

5. Federal Republic of Nigeria

Capital: Abuja

Official language: English

Area: 923,768 square kilometers

Currency: Naira

6. Republic of Cameroon

Capital: Yaoundé
Official language: French and English

Area: 475,442 square kilometers

Currency: Central African CFA franc

7. Republic of Côte d’Ivoire

Capital: Yamoussoukro (political) and Abidjan (economic)

Official language: French

Area: 322,463 square kilometers

Currency: West African CFA franc

8. Burkina Faso

Capital: Ouagadougou

Official language: French

Area: 274,200 square kilometers

Currency: West African CFA franc

9. Republic of Ghana

Capital: Accra

Official language: English

Area: 238,535 square kilometers

Currency: Ghana cedi

10. Republic of Guinea

Capital: Conakry

Official language: French

Area: 245,836 square kilometers

Currency: Guinean franc

11. Republic of Senegal

Capital: Dakar

Official language: French

Area: 196,712 square kilometers

Currency: CFA franc

12. Republic of Benin

Capital: Porto-Novo

Official language: French

Area: 114,763 square kilometers

Currency: West African CFA franc

13. Republic of Liberia

Capital: Monrovia

Official language: English

Area: 111,369 square kilometers

Currency: Liberian dollar

14. Republic of Sierra Leone

Capital: Freetown

Official language: English

Area: 71,840 square kilometres

Currency: Leone

15. Togolese Republic

Capital: Lomé

Official language: French

Area: 56,785 square kilometers

Currency: West African CFA franc

16. Republic of Guinea-Bissau

Capital: Bissau

Official language: Portuguese

Area: 36,125 square kilometers

Currency: West African CFA franc

17. Republic of Equatorial Guinea

Capital: Malabo

Official language: Spanish

Area: 28,050 square kilometers

Currency: Central African CFA franc

18. Republic of the Gambia
Capital: Banjul

Official language: English

Area: 10,689 square kilometers

Currency: Dalasi

19. Republic of Cabo Verde

Capital: Praia

Official language: Portuguese

Area: 4,033 square kilometres

Currency: Cape Verdean escudo

20. The Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe

Capital: São Tomé

Official language: Portuguese

Area: 964 square kilometers

Currency: Dobra

21. Saint Helena

Capital: Jamestown

Official language: English

Area: 121 square kilometers

Currency: Saint Helena Pound

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