The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is one of Africa's most influential inter-governmental organizations. It originally seeked to promote regional development through economic and diplomatic cooperation among its member states.
The organization was created when representatives of 15 countries—Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo—signed the Treaty of Lagos on May 28, 1975. Cape Verde joined ECOWAS in 1978 as its 16th member. Although it formally withdrew from the organisation in 2002, Mauritania remains a strong partner in the process of accelerating the education sector response to HIV&AIDS.
Conscious of the role education can play in sub-regional integration and development processes, ECOWAS political leaders have initiated consultations with partners. The first meeting of Education Ministers held on 24 and 25 September 2002 in Dakar, led to an evaluation of education systems and policies and the identification of obstacles pertaining to the achievement of education objectives. For the first time in ECOWAS history, a protocol on education was adopted as well as a draft plan of action to be annexed to the protocol including education and HIV&AIDS. The study on these areas will generate priority sub-regional projects to be executed in partnership by Member States.
The second conference held in Accra in January 9 and 10, 2004 on "Education and sub-regional integration: our commitments and perspectives" saw the reinforcement of Member States’ mobilisation toward the achievement of Education goals in harmony with the NEPAD. Ministers also examined and approved regional programmes including the "Sub-regional programme to support the fight against HIV&AIDS in the education sector".