ECOWAS is a West African regional group with 15 members. It has a mandate of promoting economic integration in all fields of activity. As Ghana is one of its members, it gives exporters some great advantages in doing business. 

Main goal and benefits

The states goal of ECOWAS is to achieve collective self-sufficiency for its member states. It creates a single large trading bloc by building a full economic and trading union. As member of ECOWAS, Ghana benefits from the fact that there are numerous international Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA). Most important one is the ECOWAS-EU EPA, which led to the gradual removal of trade restrictions between the partners.

West Africa as Free Trade Area (ETLS)

The ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) is the main ECOWAS operational tool for promoting the West Africa region as a Free Trade Area. This lies in tandem with the one of the objectives of the community which is the establishment of a common market through  “the liberalisation of trade by the abolition, among Member States, of customs duties levied on imports and exports, and the abolition among Member States, of non-tariff barriers.

The scheme has undergone a series of transformation in respect of the categories of goods that are covered. The first category was defined when the scheme first came into existence in 1979. At that time, agreement was reached on only agricultural, artisanal handicrafts and unprocessed products to benefit from the scheme. Following this, in 1990, further agreement was reached and industrial products could be approved to take part in the scheme.

With industrial products being accepted, it became imperative to define what products were “originating” from the ETLS region. The rules of origin which guide this concept are defined in the ECOWAS protocol A/P1/1/03 of 31st January 2003. It defines out originating products as follows:

  • Wholly produced goods; goods whose raw materials completely originate from the region.
  • Goods which are not wholly produced but their production requires the exclusive use of materials which are to be classified under a different tariff sub-heading from that of the product.
  • Goods which are not wholly produced but their production requires the use of materials which have received a value added of at least 30% of the ex-factory price of the finished goods.