Economic Community of West African States

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is a regional group of 15 Member States (ECOWAS members are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo) and was established in 1975. It aims to promote economic integration in the region.

On the African continent, ECOWAS appears to be one of the most active regional organisations in the area of cyber security. In 2010, the Community adopted the Supplementary Act on Personal Data Protection within ECOWAS. This legally binding act, seen as being strongly influenced by the EU Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC), specifies the required content of data privacy laws and obligates member states to establish a data protection authority (Greenleaf, Graham, “The Influence of European Data Privacy Standards Outside Europe: Implications for Globalisation of Convention 108 (October 19, 2011),” International Data Privacy Law, Vol. 2, Issue 2, 2012; UNSW Law Research Paper No. 2011-39; Edinburgh School of Law Research Paper No. 2012/12. SSRN: ). ECOWAS has also adopted a Directive on Fighting Cyber Crime (2011), highlighting the growing need to harmonise or create regional legislation in the face of the increasing level of cybercrime in the region. For other cyber-related legislation, see also the Supplementary Act on Electronic Transactions within ECOWAS.

ECOWAS has cooperated with a number of international or regional organisations on developing its Member States’ capabilities for fighting cybercrime so far. In 2015, ECOWAS signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to facilitate the interaction between the two organizations. In 2017, ECOWAS co-organized the regional conference on harmonization of legislation on cybercrime and electronic evidence with the Council of Europe and since 2017 it has supported the Council of Europe-led judicial training for judges and prosecutors of its Member States in this field (See the Council of Europe, GLAY+ Activities). In 2018, ECOWAS participated in the First African Forum on Cybercrime organized by the African Union with a focus on cybercrime policies and national legislation, international cooperation, and capacity building, together with other African regional organisations. ECOWAS has cooperated with the United States on developing its Member States’ cyber security strategies.