W. African Monetary Zone members discuss single currencyBy TERENCE SESAY in Monrovia | Wednesday, July 11 2012 at 16:44
A Nigerian economics professor has observed that national boundaries between member states of the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) are a hindrance to cross-border trade and the Zone’s objectives.
One of the major objectives is the introduction of a single currency for member states of the organisation to be known as the Eco.
According to the local Daily Observer newspaper Wednesday, Prof Akpan H. Ekpo, director-general of the West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management (WAIFEM), told the ongoing WAMZ meetings in Monrovia that despite progress made by technocrats in the sub-region, politicians are still dragging their feet on removing or reducing the check-points at border posts.
“We should not allow our boundaries to divide us,” Prof Ekpo said. He also advised member states to reduce their recurrent expenditures and spend more money on hard capital investments such as roads, infrastructure, power, manufacturing and capacity building.
This, he observed, will help to generate long-term sustainable employment for the economies within the sub-region. He added that WAMZ needs to transcend political boundaries and invest in capital projects that would accrue economic benefits to the people.
WAMZ groups together Guinea and the five Anglophone West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria and The Gambia.
Rival to CFA franc
Finance ministers and central bank governors of the six member countries are currently meeting in Monrovia to discuss how to harmonise their payment systems and fast-track the the introduction of the Eco by 2015.
Prof Akpon reminded the meeting that this can only be achieved if member states muster the political will.
WAIFEM was established on July 22, 1996 by the governors of the central banks of The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
The institute became operational in January 1997 with a mission to develop on a sustainable basis competencies in the fields of macroeconomic, debt, and financial sector management among staff of the central banks, ministries of Finance and Economic Planning as well as other public sector institutions with core economic management responsibilities.
Nigeria and Liberia have met most of the requirements of WAMZ, but are yet to meet the single digit inflation benchmark.
Prof Ekpo however pointed out that inflation alone should not hold back the introduction of the Eco, the single currency that should unite the community.
Formed in 2000, WAMZ attempts to establish a strong stable currency to rival the CFA franc, whose exchange rate is tied to that of the Euro and is guaranteed by the French Treasury.
The eventual goal is for the CFA franc and Eco to merge, giving all of West and Central Africa a single, stable currency. The launch of the new currency is being developed by the West African Monetary Institute based in Accra, Ghana.
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