West Africa Intensifies Move Toward Common Currency

The governors of the central banks of the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have reiterated their determination to create a common currency for the region by Jan. 1, 2004, according to a statement released in Dakar on May 8 by President of the Committee of Governors of the Central Banks of ECOWAS, Charles Konan Bany. Apart from monetary union, ECOWAS member states also hope to achieve a common customs union by the same date. Bany's statements follow a top-level meeting in Dakar late last week that was attended by the central bank governors of Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Conakry, Cape Verde, and Gambia as well as other top ranking officials from the region. Presently, eight ECOWAS members (Senegal, Ivory Coast, Niger, Benin, Burkina Faso, Togo, Mali, and Guinea Bissau) share the French Treasury-backed CFA franc as their common currency. These countries are members of the sub-ECOWAS grouping known as the West African Economic and Monetary Union, UMEOA. Apart from enjoying a common currency, the UMEOA member states also share a common customs union, which came into effect on Jan. 1, this year. Under the common regional monetary union scheme, a second common currency is scheduled to come on stream by Jan. 1, 2003, and it will be shared by four non-UMEOA anglophone states: Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, which, although a former French colony, is not a member of UMEOA.

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