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  • Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, and Togo jointly use the CFA Franc.

    Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, and Togo jointly use the CFA Franc. | Photo: Reuters

Published 30 June 2019

The bloc would first need to set up a monetary union as it strives for regional integration.

West African nations have adopted a flexible currency regime after making considerable progress on plans for a single currency. 

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In a statement, the body said it had made considerable progress on the single currency and has adopted “ECO” as the currency’s name. A Nigerian official at the meeting said the body aimed to launch it next year. The bloc first needs to set up a monetary union as it strives for regional integration.

"We are of the view that countries that are ready will launch the single currency and countries that are not ready will join the program as they comply with all six convergence criteria," Mahamadou Issoufou, ECOWAS chairman and Niger's president, said.

Heads of State of the 15-member West African Community of African States (ECOWAS) met on Saturday in the Nigerian capital Abuja to review progress on integration. The countries include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.

Regional integration has been a subject for discussion for the bloc over the past decade which has encountered hurdles including questions around the currency of trade and the strengthening of individual economies within the region. Several West African economies rely on commodities whose prices are regulated on international markets.

Nigeria faced a recession in 2016 after the price of oil plunged two years earlier. It has since recovered but growth is still fragile. As the largest economy on the bloc, it operates a multiple exchange regime and a managed float currency, while several other states have their currencies pegged to the euro.

ECOWAS has also asked members to boost the identification of people to facilitate free movement and remove barriers to trade across the bloc.​​​​​​​ Like the bloc, Nigeria has refused to join an African-wide trade deal, which came into force last month and is meant to eliminate most tariffs to create a single market with the free movement of goods and services.

The body acknowledged the worsening macroeconomic convergence among member states but urged them to improve performance especially as the deadline for setting up a monetary union nears. 

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