Regional integration is a powerful development factor in that it promotes both the expansion of markets, competitiveness and innovation. When valued by the Member States of the same regional economic community, it makes life easier for citizens and guarantees them both welfare and better living conditions. Regional integration is also a factor for peace between states as it facilitates cross-border cooperation, peaceful resolution of conflicts through the development of local grassroots initiatives and it builds solidarity spaces and co-prosperity between peoples.

In West Africa, the awareness of the importance of peoples’ integration has led regional leaders, in 1975, to establish the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a supranational structure whose purpose is to build the institutional framework of regional integration. Although West Africa has other regional institutions whose missions may seem to be in competition with those of ECOWAS, the latter should be ultimately the only referential to integration in this part the African continent, as provided in the revised Treaty.

With a surface area of 5,113,000 km2 and a population estimated at about 308 million in 2012, ECOWAS includes 15 countries1 and is part of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) recognized by the African Union for the implementation of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA). Since January 1, 2015, with the entry into force of the Common External Tariff (CET), ECOWAS has theoretically become a Customs Union. But in practice, due to the persistence of obstacles to the free movement of persons and goods, the ineffectiveness of the CET in some member states, ECOWAS is an imperfect Free Trade Zone, still in construction.

The project aimed at promoting and achieving the free movement of people and goods, made no significant progress and is still fragmented and subject to recurrent blockages in the Member States, often in violation of ECOWAS legal texts.

Trade in the ECOWAS remain very low, despite the existence of an ambitious Trade Liberalization Scheme (TLS). Informal transactions remain important, in due to the continuing fragmentation of economic, monetary and trade policies. Member States do not sufficiently rely on them and rather bet on other less accessible markets. Globally, despite its potential, West Africa occupies the 25th place in the ranking of economies, with 4.2% of the world population and 0.5% of international trade.

Regional integration is not yet rooted in peoples and private economic operators’ daily lives. Many people perceive ECOWAS as a distant institution and do not always recognize its legitimacy and impact on their lives. Yet the many legal texts adopted by ECOWAS are a pool of rights benefitting and favoring the citizens of the community in their daily activities. They do not take advantage of these rights as they are mostly unaware of them.

Through the 2020 Vision which establishes the transforming of the "ECOWAS of States to the ECOWAS of Peoples", West African leaders want to rectify this by bringing regional integration from the top to the grassroots level, the closer to the social and economic realities of the region. This new vision is a healthy response to the diagnosis made by the Heads of State and citizens on the challenges related to intra-regional trade liberalization and to the implementation of the protocols on free movement of people.

In order to contribute to the consolidation of these results and to the achievement of others more significant, the African Centre for Trade, Integration and Development (CACID), a regional, continental and international center of resources and expertise, member of the Enda Tiers-Monde network, has implemented an ambitious program to strengthen regional trade governance and the free movement of goods and people in West Africa. This program is carried out through a technical and financial support of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and of the ECOWAS Commission. It has several components implemented in Senegal and in other countries of ECOWAS, including the "House of ECOWAS Citizens" based in Ziguinchor. The latter's mission is to work towards strengthening trade, the free movement of persons, ECOWAS visibility and the development of community citizenship between Senegal, Gambia and Guinea Bissau.

Significant efforts have been made in recent years in the ECOWAS to ensure that community citizens enjoy freedom of entry, residence and establishment. These efforts are illustrated, among others, by the abolition of visas between Member States, the adoption of an ECOWAS passport and an ECOWAS biometric identity card that has as a corollary: the removal of the residence permit.

The "House of ECOWAS Citizens" now carries forward the initiative to organize the annual "ECOWAS Week" . Organizing the "ECOWAS Week" is a legal requirement that few countries have fulfilled so far. Indeed, under the Decision A /DEC of 10 May 1982 on the application of the protocol on free movement and the public information program, ECOWAS requires its member states to inform and educate Community citizens on the activities, protocols, policies as well as the rights granted to them in all 15 member states.

The Decision also provides, in Article 2, the institutionalization of the National ECOWAS Week which should be officially open in each country by the Head of State.

As this Decision is unheeded since its adoption, CACID has decided to reactivate it in helping to give substance to the vision of the Heads of State on the move from "ECOWAS of States to ECOWAS of Peoples".

This second edition of the ECOWAS Week in Ziguinchor takes place in a particular context that gives greater meaning to the efforts to promote integration from below and bringing the peoples of the region closer.

While celebrating the forty-first anniversary of ECOWAS, the Week is also held while the border between Senegal and Gambia has been closed for nearly three months. This regrettable blockade, in all respects, is suffered by the peoples in Gambia and Senegal and Guinea Bissau who see their rights under the ECOWAS legal texts being violated by national decisions, whether official or unofficial.

The efforts of citizens, economic stakeholders and a lot of good will, including traditional leaders, religious and community-based organizations living on both sides of the border, for the lifting of the blockade and the restoration of the right to free movement are proof of the commitment of West African peoples to integration and living together.


The ECOWAS Week aims at providing operators from Senegal, Gambia, Guinea Bissau and other countries in West Africa a mobilization space to exchange of ideas and thoughts on important stakes of regional integration.

Specifically, this week aims at:

  • providing a framework for multi-stakeholder dialogue to assess progress, stakes and challenges of regional integration policies;
  • debating the opportunities offered by regional integration to facilitate the search for peace, accelerated emergence and creation of wealth;
  • mobilizing regional stakeholders on cross-border cultural and sporting activities;
  • ensuring ECOWAS visibility by displaying its signs and symbols to bring them closer to the populations;
  • training and educating stakeholders, including local elected representatives in border towns and transit towns as well as truck drivers in the Dakar-Banjul-Bissau corridor on the ECOWAS legal texts relating to the movement of goods and people.


The week will be officially launched on Wednesday, May 25 through a Public Forum which will bring together participants from Senegal, Gambia, Guinea Bissau and other West African countries around the theme: "The free movement of goods and people, a factor of peace emergence and development in West Africa”. This forum will bring together about a hundred participants from all occupational categories to listen to experts who will present topics on the history of integration in the sub-region of Senegal-Gambia - Guinea Bissau (SEGABI); on governmental and nongovernmental border diplomacy and on the political economy of regional integration.

On May 26, the Forum will be followed by a public lecture on "Trade and Food Security in West Africa." The conference will be hosted by leading experts and will provide an opportunity to launch the Enda CACID 2016 report on "The state of trade in West Africa."

A visit to the border between Senegal and Guinea Bissau will be organized on the same day for the participants.

These activities will continue on Friday, May 27 with an information and training day for the local elected representatives of the major cities along the corridor Banjul-Bissau (Banjul, Diouloulou, Bignona, Ziguinchor, Sao Domingo, etc.), as well as for truckers on the ECOWAS legal texts on regional integration and the free movement of peoples and goods.

The week will end with the celebration of the anniversary of the ECOWAS on May 28 The celebration will include popular and recreational activities such as hiking that will bring together the populations of the three countries, including the defense and security forces, as well as the final of the Regional Integration Football Tournament and a Podium of sub-regional cultures in music, dance and theater.


1Benin, Burkina-Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra-Leone, Togo






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