ECA Expert Group meeting to discuss North Africa countries joining ECOWAS and AfCFTA

The West Africa office of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), together with the government of Benin are organizing an ad hoc experts group meeting to discuss applications by three North African countries to join the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the recently established Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in Cotonou.

The three North African countries have applied for various statuses in ECOWAS. Morocco has applied for membership, Tunisia for observer status and Mauritania for associate membership. Mauritania was a founding member of ECOWAS but left the bloc in December 1999 to join the Maghreb Union, the bloc for north African countries. The three countries are all members of the Maghreb Union. The other members are Algeria and Libya.  

In a press release from the ECA copied to, it says the Ad-hoc Meting, which will hold upon the signing of the AfCFTA by 44 countries of the 55 Member-States of the African Union, and with the intention manifested by some North African countries to join of ECOWAS, aims to carry out further in-depth reflection on the likely economic and socio-economic implications of these major projects.

It notes further that the meeting will help participants examine economic implications relating to trade flows and public revenues, identify and discuss the main challenges and stakes for ECOWAS, and also for the candidate-countries vying for membership. They will also make recommendations for an economic and socio-economic expansion that is beneficial for the different parties and especially for an effective AfCFTA.

Dr. Dimitri Sanga, Director of the ECA Sub-Regional Office for West Africa, was quoted as saying; “As Africa is firmly committed to implementing the AfCFTA, we are taking a step forward towards establishing the African Economic Community as advocated for by some of the founding fathers of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). This move has to come along with dispassionate discussions and reflections on the real implications of these commitments, so as to lift the barriers and overcome the relevant challenges. This is the case for on-going requests for the possible expansion of ECOWAS. We are convinced that the Experts from West Africa will provide possible solutions for completing all these projects, which have the potential of leading us towards the integration of the Sub region and the continent at large.”

The meeting under the theme: “Implications of ECOWAS potential expansion and the African Continental Free Trade Area”, will be held on June 25 and26, 2018 and will be attended by experts from ECOWAS Member States, representatives of regional economic communities and intergovernmental organizations in West Africa. Representatives of the private sector and civil society actively engaged in development efforts to promote integration in West Africa will also be present. Experts in foreign trade, customs and integration issues at the ministries of trade and economy and finance are the main targets at the country level, the release said.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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