The Economic Community of West African States (hereinafter “ECOWAS”) is a regional economic community, comprising 15 Member States and was founded in 1975. A key aspect of its mandate is to promote economic integration in all fields of economic activity, particularly, industry, transport, telecommunications, energy and agriculture. The Commission is one of its main institutions, with a mandate to design and implement policies, launch programmes and implement development projects in ECOWAS Member States.
ECOWAS recognizes the importance of infrastructures as the basis of and vector for economic development and regional integration, and promoting them is listed as a priority in the Vision 2020 strategic document “Towards an ECOWAS of Peoples”, drafted in 2007. The Regional Poverty Reduction Strategy, drafted in late 2006, also refers to infrastructure development as a crucial sphere of action. Promoting infrastructures to achieve a competitive business environment and increase investment capacities is also a main goal of the ECOWAS Commission’s 2011-2015 Strategic Plan. Likewise, the successive ECOWAS Summits of Heads of State and Government have reiterated the importance of infrastructures for the region. In December of 2008, the 35th Summit of Heads of State and Government adopted an Action Plan for Developing Transport Infrastructures and Services in the ECOWAS space, revised at the end of 2012.
The level of infrastructure development in the region of West Africa, understood to encompass mainly transportation, energy, and telecommunications, is insufficient with regard to existing demand, especially in a context of strong demographic growth, which contributes to its particularly weak inter-regional trade, and limited economic growth. Therefore, the Heads of State and of Government of the African Union unanimously approved, in January 2012, the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA). ECOWAS has been mandated to co-ordinate the implementation of the component of the PIDA in West Africa.
It is against this background that the ECOWAS Commission in August 2011, created the ECOWAS Project Implementation Unit with the overall objective of enhancing capacity to develop and prepare bankable regional infrastructure project to foster economic growth in the ECOWAS region.
In January 2005, ECOWAS approved launching, within its Commission, a unit for the development and implementation of projects, which was initially given a mandate to develop and implement NEPAD infrastructure projects. In November 2008, the ECOWAS Council of Ministers decided to create the Infrastructure Fund to finance feasibility studies for the projects designed by the unit, and in 2010 changed the name of the unit, and established the rules of organization and functioning of the current PIU. The PIU, which is under the Commission for Infrastructure, was created through Regulation C/REG.5/08/11 in August 2011, and has as it main purpose the improvement of effectiveness and efficiency in the implementation of ECOWAS infrastructure projects, in order to favour economic growth and regional integration in West Africa.