West Africa

Central Africa Senegal Gambia Guinea-Bissau Guinea Sierra Leone Liberia Cote D'Ivoire Ghana Togo Benin Nigeria Niger Burkina Faso Mali


Founded in 1975, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is a regional group of 15 countries in West Africa, with the aim of promoting economic integration to foster and accelerate economic and social development in the member countries.

ECOWAS has established several institutions to meet its objectives and these are:

  • The Commission, created after the transformation of the ECOWAS Secretariat, giving the Secretariat the powers of a supranational;
  • The ECOWAS Parliament;
  • The ECOWAS Court of Justice, and
  • The ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID), which provides development financing in member countries.

The initial success of the economic and financial integration agenda in the region has been mixed, resulting in the emergence of two other sub-regions – the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) and the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ).

WAEMU was formally created in Dakar on the 10th of January 1994 in response to the devaluation of the CFA Franc, the common currency of the seven francophone countries in West Africa, namely, Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo. The Heads of State signed the Dakar Treaty to meet the standards for economic convergence. Guinea-Bissau joined the Union later, to become the eighth member state.

The CFA Franc is maintained at a fixed parity with the Euro. The member states deposit their foreign exchange reserves in operational accounts opened with the French Treasury. Thus, the convertibility of the CFA Franc is guaranteed through rules permitting overdrafts by France on the operational accounts.

The WAEMU sub-region has a common Central Bank, the Central Bank of West African States (Banque Centrale des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (BCEAO)). Its mission is to ensure price stability in the sub-region through sound monetary policy, management of foreign exchange reserves, as well as strict bank supervision. In addition, the BCEAO acts as the common issuer of Treasury Bills and Treasury Bonds for all the member countries.

The Bourse Régionale des Valeurs Mobilières (BRVM) began its operations in 1998 as the regional stock exchange for the eight member countries in the WAEMU region. The equity and the bond market are the two compartments of the BRVM. At end of July 2019, 46 companies were quoted with a market capitalization of FCFA 4,682.71 billion. The bond market is divided into four categories:

  • Corporate bonds
  • Government bonds
  • Regional Bonds (bonds from regional development institutions)

At end of July 2019, the bonds were quoted with a market capitalization of FCFA 3,675.52 billion.

The Banque Ouest Africaine de Developpement (BOAD) is the regional development in the WAEMU region. The bank has played a leading role in extending project finance to its member countries, being the largest provider of medium- and long-term financing. It is the primary non-sovereign debt issuing institution, and the de facto reference issuer in the regional financial market. 

The second monetary zone in the ECOWAS region was established in December 2000 with the adoption of the institutional and legal framework of the WAMZ Programme. The WAMZ comprise of 5 countries in West Africa: Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. The responsibility of facilitating the realization of the single monetary union of the WAMZ lies with the West African Monetary Institute (WAMI). Its key priorities are to create:

  • a central bank, the West African Central Bank (WACB);
  • a regional supervisory body, the West African Financial Supervisory Authority (WAFSA); and
  • a single currency, the ECO, which will replace the existing five national currencies.

In addition, the WAMI offers policy recommendations to member countries so as to achieve and sustain macroeconomic convergence as well as the building of the agreed architecture for the union. WAMI also undertake empirical research and analysis intended to influence policy in favour of the attainment of the objectives of the WAMZ economies. The Institute is also harmonizing statistics in the zone and building a statistical architecture that will support common monetary policy operations of the WACB in the conduct of single monetary policy of the future common Central Bank.

To facilitate the realisation of the single monetary union, a regional payments system project has been launched. It aims to improve and standardize the payment systems of The Gambia, Guinea and Sierra Leone to the same level as that of Ghana and Nigeria. The project is funded by grant from the African Development Fund.

The main components of the WAMZ Payments System Project are:

  • Real-Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system for inter-bank and large value funds transfer;
  • Automated Clearing House and Automated Cheque Processing to promote electronic transactions, thereby, reducing the time taken to clear transactions;
  • Scriptless Securities Settlement (SSS) system to facilitate conduct of Open market Operations and Banking system liquidity management; and
  • Banking application systems of the three countries to ensure an effective interface with the payments system, including the RTGS and ACH systems.

Regional Bond Market Initiatives


  • Establishment of a committee of Financial Stability between the regulator and the supervisors of WAEMU's financial sector. 
  • Ratings of bonds for transparency and deepening of the market.
  • Creation of a community framework for the repression of offences may be committed on the market.

Summary table of the countries

CountryGDP (US$ million) 2018GDP growth (year over year)External Debt (US$ million)External Debt (as % of GDP)Domestic public debt (US$ million)Domestic public debt (as % of GDP)
Burkina Faso14,124.256.803,377.6823.916,111.5643.27
Cape Verde1,986.455.001,964.3398.89653.7132.91
Cote d'Ivoire42,993.127.4120,490.7747.666,821.0515.87
Sierra Leone3,999.383.501,674.5941.87989.8524.75
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