The implementation of the “Eco” common currency under the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) could now be delayed by five years due to the effect of the coronavirus pandemic.
Leaders of ECOWAS said last year the Eco would be set up in 2020 but the short time frame coupled with logistics constraints stalled the implementation process.
The economic hit from COVID-19 has further disrupted the bloc’s timetable for the implementation of the common currency which has been in the works for two decades now.
Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara told journalists in the city of Bouafle on Saturday that he does not expect the Eco to be implemented in the next three to five years due to the economic burden of the coronavirus on member states, according to Reuters.
Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou urged fellow leaders to “come up with a new roadmap, sticking to a gradual approach for launching the common currency.”
An economics professor at the University of Bouake in Ivory Coast, Yao Prao, told the AFP that Issoufou’s appeal heralds “not a burial, but a delay” for the Eco.
Leaders of the French-speaking West African nations under the umbrella body, West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), and the larger 15-ECOWAS body hoped for the replacement of the French colonial currency, CFA franc, this year with the Eco.
To launch the currency, WAEMU members agreed that national deficits be contained at or below 3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Under a bill approved by the French cabinet in May, once the Eco arrives the Bank of France would no longer hold CFA countries’ reserves, and Paris would withdraw from institutions like the Central Bank of the West African States (CBWAS) and WAMU’s banking commission, according to the AFP.
Nigeria, which accounts for the bloc’s 60% GDP, wants WAEMU to completely break away from the usage of the French colonial currency, CFA franc.
The history of the Eco is a two-decade-long journey that was first proposed in December 2000. Initially, the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) countries planned to use the currency. These countries were Ghana, Gambia, Guinea, Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
None of these countries is in the CFA franc zone. After postponing the introduction of the currency some two times in 2003 and 2005, an agreement was established in 2009 to work towards a plan that would see CFA franc users in West Africa jump onto the Eco bandwagon by 2020.