THE ECONOMIC COMMUNITY of West African States (ECOWAS), also known in French as Communauté Économique des États de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (CEDEAO), was first formally set out at the Monrovia Group meeting in April 1968. By the Treaty of Lagos, 15 representatives from West African states formed ECOWAS in Lagos, Nigeria, on May 28, 1975. These were: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. Cape Verde later joined the community making it a 16-member economic organization. Based on their colonial experience, 3 official languages are spoken in West Africa: English, French, and Portuguese. The principal objective of the treaty is the creation of an economic and monetary union. To this end, a regional trade liberalization scheme was adopted for the creation of a free trade area at the end of 1999, and a common external tariff is being implemented in phases. The three-phase program for the free movement of ECOWAS citizens has been completed. ECOWAS has pursued the physical integration of its member states through the modernization of regional highway and telecommunication networks. ECOWAS became effective in July 1975, when the necessary 7 states ratified the treaty. The first meetings of the Council of Ministers and the Authority of Heads of State and Government took place in Lomé, Togo, in November 1976, at which time additional protocols to the treaty were signed. In July 1993, the 16 West African heads of state signed a revised treaty, reflecting West Africa’s regional cooperation experiences over the preceding 15 years, and taking into account the exigencies of continental integration as envisaged in the Treaty of the African Economic Community. Member states committed themselves to coordinating and harmonizing varied national economic and financial policies in order to enhance the effectiveness of national structural adjustment and economic reform programs. The ultimate goal is to facilitate the regional approach to economic development and the establishment of the monetary union. The monetary program adopted by ECOWAS has the medium-term objectives of achieving regional convertibility of the 9 national currencies and, in the longer term, the creation of a single monetary zone. Meanwhile, an ECOWAS traveler’s check was launched in October 1998 to facilitate regional travel and commercial transactions.