By Lisa Vives
French-speaking countries will have to put the cork back in the champagne bottle after six member countries of the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) comprising Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, have rejected the adoption of ‘Eco’ as the name of the proposed single currency for West Africa.
At a special meeting, five English speaking countries in West Africa in the Nigerian capital Abuja met on January 15 and put the kibosh on adopting the Eco as African common currency as desired by mostly , French-speaking states.
In their communique announcing the decision, Nigerian Minister Zainab Ahmed said that more time, more meetings and more consultations needed to be held, “as if 45 years was not a long enough time for talks,” said an obviously frustrated Simon Ateba, manager of Today News Africa.
Only a month ago, Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo announced they were migrating from their currency, the CFA Franc, to become the Eco and discontinue use of the currency linked to former colonial ruler France.
The communiqué issued by the mostly English-speaking countries “noted with concern, the declaration by His Excellency, Alassane Ouattara to unilaterally rename the CFA Franc as “Eco” by 2020.”
Initially, the Ghanaian government called the move to Eco “a welcome decision, which Ghana warmly applauds. It is a good testimony to the importance that is being attached not only to the establishment of a monetary union but also to the larger agenda of West African integration.
“We, in Ghana, are determined to do whatever we can to enable us to join the Member States of UEMOA, soon, in the use of the ECO, as, we believe, it will help remove trade and monetary barriers, reduce transaction costs, boost economic activity, and raise the living standards of our people.”
When the leaders met in June 2019 there was an agreement to adopt the common currency in principle. However, President Ouattara’s sudden announcement that the former French colonies and Guinea-Bissau had already drafted details of the deal and set a timescale appears to have caught counterparts off guard.
“The question now is whether the two groups will be able to repair the breach and work together to drive forward the single currency project,” Sanyade Okoli, CEO of Lagos-based Alpha African Advisory told CNBC.