Figure 1. Imports (!) and exports (■) of goods by West African countries as % 2001 GDP. Compiled from: National Accounts of ECOWAS, ECOWAS Handbook of International Trade, ECOWAS website

African Development Bank, 2004; World Bank, 2004), as its share of world exports has declined from ~ 5.5% in 1975 to ~ 2.5% in 2002 (Bora et al., 2007).

Primary products dominate West Africa's exports. All ECOWAS countries except Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria and Guinea experienced a trade deficit in 2001 (Fig. 1) with Gambia running the highest deficit. The primary products orientation of the exports means that processing within the country could increase export value and that these economies are all quite vulnerable to external shocks. ECOWAS trade with Europe and the United States is considerably greater than trade with other developed countries or intra-regional trade (Table 2), with 58% of exports from West African countries going to the EU and the United States. Trade between West African countries not only is low, but the volume of trade has fluctuated over time. In general, intra-regional trade increased steadily from $1.8 billion in 1998 to $2.6 billion in 2001 and dropped by 1.4 % in 2002.

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