When former Nigerian President Yakubu Gowon and the late long serving Togolese leader Gnassigbe Eyadema led other African leaders and rulers to Lagos, then the capital of Nigeria, to sign the Treaty that created the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on May, 28, 1975, their mission was clearly defined.
Although Gowon would be deposed in a coup on July 29, 1975, and replaced by General Murtala Muhammed, the founding fathers of ECOWAS had penned down a futuristic vision of West Africa.
ECOWAS had its roots in earlier attempts at a West African economic community in the 1960s with the primary purpose to promote economic trade, national cooperation, and monetary union, for growth and development throughout West Africa.
On July 24, 1993, a revised treaty intended to accelerate the integration of economic policy and improve political cooperation was signed.
It set out the goals of a common economic market, a single currency, the creation of a West African parliament, economic and social councils, and a court of justice.
The court was meant to primarily interpret and mediate disputes over ECOWAS policies and relations, but also with the power to investigate alleged human rights abuses in member countries.
That was what the founding fathers wanted knowing there was no English speaking African, no French or Spanish speaking African, but brothers and sisters divided by bloody imperialism by Great Britain, France and the rest.
Although ECOWAS now has 15 members, fewer speaking English and most speaking French, the founding members of ECOWAS were Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania (which left 2002), Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Burkina Faso (which joined as Upper Volta before changing its name).
Cape Verde joined in 1977; Morocco requested membership in 2017, and the same year Mauritania requested to rejoin, but the details have yet to be worked out.
On Saturday, December 21, 2019, speaking in Ivory Coast’s commercial capital Abidjan, President Alassane Ouattara announced that the West African Economic and Monetary Union has agreed with France to a number of changes to the CFA franc currency, including a new name.
Mr. Ouattara said the monetary union will move its currency reserve from France, the former colonial power. In addition, France will no longer have a representative on the board of the central bank, Ouattara told reporters during a two-day visit by French President Emmanuel Macron.
These new changes came as the West African bloc inched closer to a split from the French-backed currency.
“This decision shows our determination to create an integrated regional market, dynamic and a source of prosperity for us and for future generations,“ Ouattara said.
Emmanuel Macron reacted by saying he hoped the currency reform would lead to a “dynamic regional market.”
“These reforms put an end to a system that has maybe played out its role and will hopefully lead to greater regional economic mobility and stability,” he said.
The CFA franc is used in two African monetary zones, one for eight West African countries and the other for six Central African nations. These 14 African states keep half of their reserves in France, on which the French treasury pays a 0.75% interest rate.
It was such a heart warming big news that far away in Washington D.C., Ms. Kristalina Georgieva, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), welcomed the development.
“I welcome the reforms to the WAEMU’s CFA franc currency arrangement that were announced today by Presidents Ouattara and Macron in Abidjan. They constitute a key step in the modernization of long-standing arrangements between the West African Economic and Monetary Union and France,” Ms. Georgieva said in a statement received by TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington DC.
She added: “The announced measures build on WAEMU’s proven track record in the conduct of monetary policy and external reserve management. In recent years, the WAEMU has recorded low inflation and high economic growth, the fiscal situation has improved, and the level of foreign exchange reserves has increased.
“The reforms also maintain key elements of stability that have served the region well, including the fixed exchange rate with the euro and the guarantee of unlimited convertibility provided by France.
“The IMF stands ready to engage with the regional authorities, as needed, and to support the implementation of this important initiative.”
However, after weeks of deliberation, five English speaking countries in West Africa met in the Nigerian capital Abuja on Thursday January 16, and rejected the adoption of a single currency by the entire region, saying that the announcement made by Mr. Ouattara was not unanimous.
The communique rejecting the decision to rename the West African currency “Eco” was read by Nigerian Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed.
The communique said more time, more meetings, more consultations needed to be held, as if 45 years was not a long time for talks.
The single currency, to be named eco, and already endorsed by eight French speaking countries, came also as Africa prepares for the first time to trade together with the African Continent Free Trade Area Agreement coming into force.
A single currency in Africa and more trade within Africa was perfectly in line with what the founding fathers of ECOWAS had in mind. But now, many who are now late must be weeping in their graves.
The United Nations defines Western Africa as the 16 countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo, as well as the United Kingdom Overseas Territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.
Among them six speak English as a product of brutal colonialism by Great Britain when the European nation was still dominating the world before its fall and the rise of America.
English speaking countries in West Africa are Nigeria, Ghana, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia and part of Cameroon.
The French speaking countries include Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Togo, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Benin and Niger.