ECOWAS: Tinubu calls for increased regional trade in West Africa, identifies significant disparity among Member States

Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu urged for more regional trade in West Africa citing that there is a great disparity between member States in terms of capacity to contribute significantly to intra-regional trade ranging, from 2% for Cabo Verde to 43% for the Gambia.

Tinubu disclosed this during his Address on the Status of Regional Integration in ECOWAS released by the presidency on Sunday.

Regional Economic Community

Tinubu addressing the Mid-Year Coordination Meeting of the African Union (AU) and the Regional Economic Communities stated that the West African regional economic community, ECOWAS, has deployed in the areas of trade, free movement of persons, investment, infrastructure, energy as well as in peace, security and Trade


Tinubu urged that  Trade remains the backbone of West Africa’s  integration, he added that intra-community trade is still low, he said:

  • “Although the Free Trade Area has been attained in ECOWAS, the Customs Union and Common Market have yet to be fully realised. Intra Community trade remains low at around 12%.
  • “The main products traded across our region remain minerals, food and industrial products.
  • “There is a great disparity between member States in terms of capacity to contribute significantly to intra-regional trade ranging, from 2% for Cabo Verde to 43% for the Gambia.

External trade

OnTinubu added that trade with third parties constitutes the bulk of our external trade, adding that the European Union continues to be the major external trading partner of the region, followed by Asia, North America, and the rest of Africa.

  • “ On average, the region’s trade in goods with European Union stands at $34.5 billion. The region’s trade stands at $27.0 billion with Asia and $9.8 billion with the United States of America.
  • “However, informal trade in the region is significant and appears to be growing. The major item of informal exchanges is foodstuff, livestock, fuel, and manufactured consumer goods.

He noted that ECOWAS has been working to consolidate the gains of its trade liberalisation scheme and to enable the private sector to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The ECOWAS Commission has been supporting its Member States in the negotiations, ratification, and implementation of the AfCFTA.

To date, 13 out of the 15 ECOWAS Member States have ratified the AfCFTA, he added.

Draft Schedule of Specific Commitment

The President also added that ECOWAS is also supporting its Member States to finalise their Draft Schedule of Specific Commitment (DSSC) as part of the negotiations on the five (5) Priority Sectors in Trade in Services, he added:

  • “In my capacity representing ECOWAS and capacity as Nigeria’s head of state, I affirm we shall keep faith with this year’s theme: Acceleration of the African Continental Free Trade Area Implementation.
  • “Establishing the African free trade area has been a historic achievement, opening the door to continental economic growth and unity and nurturing the brave optimism that comes with these benign goals.

What you should know

Nigeria, West Africa’s largest economy recorded a total foreign trade of N12.05 trillion in the first quarter of 2023, representing a 17.5% decrease compared to N14.6 trillion recorded in Q1 2022.

It however increased marginally by 2.8% from N11.72 trillion recorded in Q4 2022

The top five export destinations in the first quarter of 2023 were the Netherlands with N837.65 billion or 12.91%, the United States of America with N579.35 billion or 8.93%, Spain with N488.17 billion or 7.53%, France with N487.34 billion or 7.51% and India with N456.69 billion or 7.04% of total exports.

Altogether, exports to the top five countries amounted to 43.92% of the total value of exports. ‘Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude’ with N5.14 trillion representing 79.37% remains the commodity with the largest export values in the period under review, followed by ‘Natural gas, liquefied’ with N622.36 billion accounting for 9.59%, and ‘Urea, whether or not in aqueous solution’ with N146.79 billion or 2.26% of total exports.