General Studies IIInternational OrganizationsINTERNATIONAL RELATION

Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)


  • The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is a regional political and economic union of fifteen countries located in West Africa.
  • Collectively, these countries comprise an area of 5,114,162 km2 (1,974,589 sq mi), and in 2015 had an estimated population of over 349 million.
  • Considered one of the pillar regional blocs of the continent-wide African Economic Community (AEC), the stated goal of ECOWAS is to achieve “collective self-sufficiency” for its member states by creating a single large trade bloc by building a full economic and trading union.
  • The union was established on 28 May 1975, with the signing of the Treaty of Lagos, with its stated mission to promote economic integration across the region.
  • A revised version of the treaty was agreed and signed on 24 July 1993 in Cotonou.
  • The ECOWAS also serves as a peacekeeping force in the region, with member states occasionally sending joint military forces to intervene in the bloc’s member countries at times of political instability and unrest


  • The ECOWAS was formed initially from the region’s former French, British and Portuguese colonies, and independent Liberia, following post-colonial independence throughout the region (particularly in the 1960s and 1970s).
  • It was formed to provide regional economic cooperation, but has since evolved to include political and military cooperation, as well.
  • The union was established on 28 May 1975, with the signing of the Treaty of Lagos, with its stated mission to promote economic integration across the region.
    • A revised version of the treaty was agreed and signed on 24 July 1993 in Cotonou.
  • The ECOWAS also serves as a peacekeeping force in the region, with member states occasionally sending joint military forces to intervene in the bloc’s member countries at times of political instability and unrest.
    • In recent years these included interventions in Ivory Coast in 2003, Liberia in 2003, Guinea-Bissau in 2012, Mali in 2013, and The Gambia in 2017.
  • Covering a region once known as a “coup belt,” the ECOWAS, since the 1990s, has attempted to defend the region’s shift towards democracy against authoritarian attacks. However, the group has been cited for weak and ineffective responses in the early 2020s, when three member countries suffered military coup d’états — two in Mali, one attempt in Niger, and one in Guinea.
  • In 2011, the ECOWAS adopted its development blueprint for the next decade, Vision 2020, and, to accompany it, a Policy on Science and Technology (ECOPOST)

Objectives of ECOWAS

Discussed below are the objectives with which ECOWAS was established:

  • All Member states to be treated equally and to ensure interdependency among each state
  • Cooperative and harmonised livelihood of people living in regions of member states
  • Maintenance of regional peace, stability and security
  • To ensure social and economic justice to each citizen of all the member states
  • To manage a non-aggressive relation between the member states
  • Promotion of human rights 
  • Just and equal distribution of the costs and benefits of economic co-operation and integration

ECOWAS – Institutions and Specialized Agencies

Given below is a list of Institutions which combine to form ECOWAS:

  1. Authority of Heads of States and Government
  2. Commission, The Community Parliament
  3. Community Court of Justice, Council of Ministers
  4. Specialised Technical Committees
  5. ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID)

Given below is a list of Specialised Agencies, ECOWAS is made up of:

  1. West African Health Organisation (WAHO)
  2. West African Monetary Agency (WAMA)
  3. Inter-governmental Action Group against Money Laundary and Terrorist Financing in West Africa (GIABA)
  4. ECOWAS Gender and Development Centre
  5. ECOWAS Youth and Sports Development Centre
  6. ECOWAS Water Resources Coordination Centre
  7. West African Power Pool
  8. ECOWAS Regional Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE)
  9. ECOWAS Regional Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERERA)
  10. ECOWAS Infrastructure Projects Preparation and Development Unit (PPDU)
  11. ECOWAS Brown Card Scheme

India and Africa Relations

  • India and Africa Relations refers to the historical, political, economic, and cultural connections between India and the African continent.
  • Historical relations concerned mainly India and East Africa. However, in modern days—and with the expansion of diplomatic and commercial representations— India has now developed ties with most of the African nations.

Historical background

  • Since achieving independence, India has consistently supported anti-colonial and anti-racist liberation struggles in Africa.
  • Africa and India are separated by the Indian Ocean. The geographical proximity between the Horn of Africa and the Indian subcontinent has played an important role in the development of the relationship since ancient times.
    • Indo-African relations date back to the Bronze Age period of the Indus Valley civilization, Pearl millet first domesticated in Africa have been discovered from the site of Chanhu Daro.
    • Relations attained stronger levels during medieval times due to the development of trade routes between the Mediterranean and Asia, through Arabia. Zheng He, a Chinese admiral met with the Malindi envoy present in Bengal.
    • The stay of Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa between 1893 and 1915 remains one of the main events which paved the road to the modern-day political relations.

Political Relations

  • The development of modern-day relations has gone through two main periods. During the period of colonialism and liberation wars, political relations became stronger. At the wake of the Cold War, many African countries joined the non-aligned movement pioneered by Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia and Yugoslavia.
  • During the years of decolonisation, India exerted considerable political and ideological influence in Africa as a role model and a leader of the Non-Aligned Movement.
  • The India-Africa Forum Summit, which was held from April 4 to April 8, 2008 in New Delhi, India for the first time, constitutes the basic framework for the relations under the South-South Cooperation platform.
  • There are numerous of Indians and Africans of Indian descent living in Africa, mainly in the eastern and southern coast in places such as Mauritius, Kenya and South Africa.
  • From 2014 onwards, there have been a total of 29 visits to African countries from the Indian side at the level of President, Vice President, and Prime Minister, apart from several ministerial level visits.

Economic relations

  • India is currently Africa’s 3rd-largest trading partner, and Africa’s third-largest export destination. 
  • Indian government initiatives like Focus Africa (2002), TEAM-9 (2004), Duty-Free Tariff Preference Scheme for Least Developed Countries (2008), and the institution of the India Africa Forum Summit (held in 2008, 2011, 2015), have succeeded in lifting bilateral trade and investment flows to new heights
  • After South Asia, Africa is the second-largest recipient of Indian overseas assistance with Lines of Credit (LOC) worth nearly $10 billion (42 per cent of the total) spread over 100 projects in 41 countries. 
  • Ties were boosted at the India Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) in 2015. Forty per cent of all training and capacity building slots under the ITEC programme have traditionally been reserved for Africa.

People to people contact

  • There are more than three million people of Indian origin in Africa today.
  • Forty percent of all training and capacity building slots under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC) programme have traditionally been reserved for Africa. India provides about 50,000 scholarships to African students each year. 

Techno-Economic Approach for Africa–India Movement (TEAM–9)

  • It was launched by India in 2004 together with eight energy and resource-rich West African countries viz. Burkina Faso, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Senegal, and India. 
  • Engaging the underdeveloped, yet resource-wealthy countries of West Africa, which required both low-cost technology and investment to develop their infrastructure.

Peacekeeping, defence and security cooperation

  • Approximately 6,000 Indian soldiers are deployed in UN peace-keeping missions in five conflict zones in Africa. 
  • The first-ever India Africa Defence Ministers conclave in February this year on the margins of the Defence Expo 2020. 
  • Capacity building and training of African military officers in Indian institutes has long remained a cornerstone of defence ties. Africa-India conducted Field Training Exercise-2019, called AFINDEX-19.
    • If India wants to become a reliable defence and security partner of African countries India can consider exporting Akash Surface to Air Missile System, Light Combat Aircraft (LCA Tejas), Offshore Patrol Vessels, Dornier Do-228 aircraft, Sport Utility Vehicles, Dhanush Artillery Gun System, light arms and ammunitions, and night vision equipment to African states that share a common vision. This will not only strengthen India’s partnership with Africa but will also enhance African capabilities to tackle terrorism.

Self Help Group and Africa

  • Ethiopia and South Africa are working with Kudumbashree, a self-help group movement created by the Government of Kerala aimed at eradicating poverty and empowering women.

Cyber Security and Digital Revolution

  • India signed MoUs/joint statements with six African countries on the subject — i.e., Morocco, Egypt, Seychelles, South Africa, Kenya, and Mauritius.


  • India’s digital cooperation with Africa is the Pan African e-Network (PAeN) project on tele-education and tele-medicine, launched in 2004. 
  • India’s Ministry of External Affairs launched a new network project – e-VidyaBharati and e-ArogyaBharati (e-VBAB). The PAeN project operates on satellite-based technology and it will establish two separate web-based portals – one each for tele-education and tele-medicine.

International collaboration

  • Africa and International Solar Alliance (ISA): Even in the International Solar Alliance (ISA), out of the 48 countries that have signed and ratified the ISA Framework Agreement, 25 countries are from the African continent. India Africa Forum Summit (2015): The India–Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) is the official platform for the African-Indian relations. India announced a line of credit to help financing the projects in African countries, capacity building, IT education, and higher education.
  • Asia-Africa Growth Corridor: It is an economic cooperation agreement between India and Japan which envisages closer engagement between Asia and Africa for “sustainable and innovative development” and will be anchored by these  pillars.
  • Paradiplomacy: Now, Organizations and State governments have also been crafting independent relationships with African counterparts. For example, Kerala is planning on importing cashew from African countries for its processing plants that are running low on raw material.
  • India and Africa have often held common positions in global platforms and worked together to guard the interests of other developing countries. They have moved joint proposals, such as the Agricultural Framework Proposal and Protection of Geographical Indications, at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and World Intellectual Property Organisation, and have worked towards protecting the food and livelihood concerns of farmers at the Doha Development Round of WTO negotiations.
  • India and South Africa are also currently pressing for a waiver of certain provisions of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights for COVID-19 treatment and vaccines.

Vaccine Maitri

  • Beyond loans and investments, India has also aided Africa in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Jaishankar, India “has gifted 150 [metric tons] of medical aid to 25 [African] countries. Under the ‘Vaccine Maitri’ initiative, India have supplied 24.7 million doses of Made in India COVID vaccines as grants, and commercial and COVAX supplies to 42 countries in Africa.”

Significance of India-Africa relations

  • Resurging Africa and Rising India: It can give a strong impetus to South-South Cooperation, especially in areas like clean technology, climate-resilient agriculture, maritime security, connectivity, and Blue economy.
  • Energy security: Africa will be helpful for India to diversify its energy basket. India is seeking diversification of its oil supplies away from the Middle East and Africa can play an important role in India’s energy matrix.
  • Convergence of interest in WTO: India and Africa are aligned on the outstanding issues at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and are in favor of multilateral trading systems. At the Bali Ministerial in 2013 too, Africa and India had united in seeking an interim mechanism for safeguarding minimum support prices to farmers against WTO caps till a permanent solution is found and adopted. 
  • Cooperation to tackle terrorism: India strongly advocated stepped-up cooperation through intelligence exchange and training with 54 African countries. 
  • Cooperation on climate change between India and Africa, both who had “contributed the least to global warming”. 
  • Open and Free Oceans: 
    • India aims to enhance cooperation with African countries in order to keep the oceans open and free for the benefit of all nations. 
    • India and Africa Maritime strategy: Indian Navy’s 2015 Maritime Strategy document and the African Union’s 2050 Africa Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS 2050) aim for a free and open Indian ocean.
    • Complemented by India’s SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and SAGARMALA (port development) initiatives, the AAGC (Asia Africa Growth Corridor), with Africa being an equal partner, can potentially be a game-changer in the Indian Ocean Region.
  • Nontraditional threats: Addressing non-traditional threats in the Indian Ocean Region and Higher incidences of natural disasters and regional instabilities in the past decade have necessitated increased deployment of Indian Navy for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HA/DR) operations.
  • New Global Order: The institutions of global governance that were created after the Second World War, like the UN, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organisation, failed to adapt to the changing global scenario and adequately represent the voice of the developing world.
    • India —the world’s largest democracy representing one-sixth of humanity, and Africa — with more than a quarter of UN members, cannot be kept out of the decision-making table.

Key Associated Challenges

  • India and China are competing with each other to build a stronger relationship with Africa. China even built up its first overseas military base in Djibouti.
    • China’s predatory and exploitative engagement of Africa
    • Chinese infrastructure projects like the 1,860 km Tanzania-Zambia railway line in 1975, and the Addis Ababa-Djibouti and Mombasa-Nairobi lines more recently, China is now eyeing to develop the vast East Africa Master Railway Plan.
      • It is also developing the Trans-Maghreb Highway, the Mambilla Hydropower Plant in Nigeria, the Walvis Bay Container Terminal in Windhoek and the Caculo Cabaca Hydropower project in Angola. 
    • At the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (COCAC) in 2018, China set aside $60 billion in developmental assistance, followed by a whopping $1 billion Belt and Road (BRI) Infrastructure Fund for Africa. 
    • Health sector diplomacy in the wake of the pandemic, but its image has been tarnished by defective supplies of PPE gear and discriminatory behaviour against Africans in Guangzhou, leading to an embarrassing diplomatic row.
  • India cannot compete with China or the U.S. Some of the African countries, even the richer ones like Nigeria, expect India to invest in Africa under the India Africa Forum Summit. However, India asserts for joint endeavor for better development. eg: Asia Africa growth Corridor.
  • The poor quality of education in India is the primary reason it is not the foreign destination of choice for African students.
    • China, on the other hand, has been viewed as a more attractive destination for higher studies to African students.
  • The World Bank’s Africa’s Pulse, a biannual analysis of the near-term macroeconomic outlook for the region, in its report, assessed that the COVID-19 outbreak has sparked off the Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) region’s first recession in 25 years. 
  • Growth is expected to plummet to between -2.1 and -5.1 per cent in 2020, from a modest 2.4 per cent in 2019. 
  • The steep decline in commodity prices has spelt disaster for the economies of Nigeria, Zambia and Angola.
  • With high rates of HIV, malaria, diabetes, hypertension and malnourishment prevalent, a large number of Africans were already faced with a health and economic crisis. 
  • According to the World Bank, the SSA region paid $35.8 billion in total debt service in 2018, 2.1 percent of regional gross domestic product (GDP). 
  • There has been an extraordinary increase in terrorist attacks by extremists connected to al-Qaida and ISIS across Africa over the recent years.
  • Financial and human resource capacity constraints, along with lack of political will, presents significant challenges.


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