ECOWAS planned single currency and economic integration should benefit all member states, not a few

WEST AFRICA – West African nations are pondering on utilizing a single currency for the sub region as part of several plans to make Africa a more integrated continent.  In view of this, leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) recently adopted the name ‘ECO’ for a planned single currency to be used in the region.

The 15-member sub regional group announced this move at the end of an ECOWAS summit in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital on Saturday.

Hence, six member countries, including Nigeria, Liberia, and Ghana, could be swapping their currencies for a new one – the ECO.

Already, eight ECOWAS countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo) currently jointly use the CFA franc.

Originally intended to be launched in 2000, the ‘ECO’ has been postponed multiple times, and the newest target date is 2020 though the prospects are slim.

According to an internal document, ECOWAS will be working with the West African Monetary Agency (WAMA), the West Africa Monetary Institute (WAMI) and central banks in member countries to speed up the implementation of a new road map for the proposed single trade currency.

According to some ECOWAS authorities, the ‘ECO’ is supposed to boost major economic development in the West African region and improve cross border trade.

If implemented, countries across the region will be able to move and spend money across different countries without worrying about exchange rate costs, says economic analyst, Tokunbo Afikuyomi.

“The single currency if properly implemented will improve trade by allowing specific countries to specialize at what they are good at, and exchange it for other goods that other countries in the bloc produce more efficiently,” he told CNN.

The desire and the ongoing efforts to establish the ‘ECO’ is a great idea but ECOWAS leaders need to get certain things right first, especially the questions of protectionism of anti-assimilation, and trade protectionism.

Protectionism is a policy of protecting domestic industries against foreign competition by means of tariffs, subsidies, import quotas, or other restrictions or handicaps placed on the imports of foreign competitors.  Government-levied tariffs are the chief protectionist measures.

A number of countries in the ECOWAS sub region, directly or indirectly, are engaged in trade protectionism but most are not engaged in protectionism of anti-assimilation except Ghana where there is weird nationalistic tendency by some Ghanaians who oppose nationals from other West African countries from engaging in meaningful economic activities on Ghanaian soil when the opposite is that there are thousands of Ghanaians spread all over West Africa doing not only business in those countries, but are equally establishing permanent residency, including seeking citizenship in those countries.

In Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria, the Gambia and a number of other West African nations, Ghanaians are free to engage in any legal business they choose, and may establish any form of residency as they choose.  This is not the case in Ghana where being a non-Ghanaian can be a serious problem when a national of other West African states want to integrate economically.

Ghanaians should be ready and willing to champion the spirit of Kwame Nkrumah by abiding by what Nkrumah actually intended when he spoke about Africa’s unity.  Ghana cannot choose to have its cake and eat it at the same time. Just as how Ghanaians are free to live and do business in other West African states, Ghana’s nationalists should reciprocate likewise.

This is not to single out Ghana because this is common in other African countries where some citizens oppose or are jealous of nationals of other African countries who live, work or do business within their territories. However, the experience of people from other West African states about Ghana’s hospitality toward their fellow West Africans who want to succeed on Ghanaian soil in terms of business is not encouraging.

If trade protection and protectionism of anti-assimilation are not dealt with from the start, the implementation of the ‘ECO’ might not succeed because every country, instead of a few, should be able to benefit from the so-called economic integration in the sub region.

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