How many countries are ECOWAS? The 15 members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was founded with an eye towards the promotion of economic cooperation amongst the various member states as a way of boosting living standards and promote economic development. Additionally, ECOWAS has also worked to allay common security issues by developing a peacekeeping force for conflicts in the region. ECOWAS created its free trade area in 1990 before adopting a common external tariff a quarter-century later in January 2015. Common Ties that Bind In addition to common cultural ties, ethnicities, and trading patterns stretching back centuries, the ECOWAS countries, which is bounded to the west and south by the Atlantic Ocean with the Sahara Desert forming the northern reaches of the economic community. The eastern boundary of the trading pact is found running on a line between Lake Chad. to Mount Cameroon. Colonial boundaries are still reflected in the modern boundaries between contemporary West African states, cutting across ethnic and cultural lines, often dividing single ethnic groups between two or more states. ECOWAS Countries Leverage History and the Resources of West Africa West Africa has a long history that pre-dated the arrival of European explorers in the 14th-century. Vibrant communities, storied empires, and vast trading routes existed into the interior. The 19th-century Scramble for Africa sundered these relationships to be replaced with colonial administration and rule. When that colonial rule ended in the 20th-century with the independence of the colony following the end of World War Two. Leaving national boundaries in their wake that had little resemblance to those earlier ethnic, cultural, and economic ties Owing to the allure of nationalism being a strong one amongst recognized nations, there has been little impetus for unification and revising boundaries to better leverage their economic position amongst these 15 nations. As such, forming ECOWAS affords those nations the chance to cooperate economically while maintaining their national identity and sovereignty.