The formation of an independent monetary union and the adoption of a regional currency has been a long-term goal for the broader 15-member Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), of which all the Waemu states are members. Ecowas leaders met as recently as June 2019 and agreed to adopt a common regional currency, to be called the ‘eco’, as early as 2020.

The has been hailed by Pan-Africans across the continent as it would lead to the economic liberation of many of the West Africa states that since independence in the 60s still use the French controlled CFA. However, France may have just used its favourite puppet in Africa, Alassane Quattara of Ivory Coast to hijack the project.

On On Dec. 21, the day the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was meeting for a final adoption of Eco, also decided for 2020, Mr Macron of France and Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast in a press conference in Abidjan announced the renaming of the CFA to The ECO. The purported “agreement” with West African Leaders will include scrapping the obligation requiring Waemu members to keep 50% of their foreign reserves at the French central bank; and the withdrawal of all French representatives from decision-making and management bodies of the West African Monetary Union (comprising the same eight Waemu member countries). However, the eco will remain pegged to the euro and the Banque de France will continue to guarantee the convertibility of the currency.

Many Economist in Africa including Professor Ibrahim Gambari view the Macron-Quattara announcement as a move by France to kidnap the project and keep countries like Nigeria and Ghana, who will definitely not agree to the arrangement, out of it to maintain France’s economic control of the region. French involvement wouldn’t “be tolerated by Anglophone countries,” Malte Liewerscheidt, vice president at Teneo Intelligence, notes. “Conversely, France would be unable to ‘guarantee’ the exchange rate should a juggernaut like Nigeria join the club.” With Quattara as their trojan horse in the project, many see a French plan to frustrate any monetary project in Africa that does not maintain or even expand France’s hold on Africa.

Presidents Nana Akufo Addo of Ghana and Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria

Nigeria and Ghana, the two biggest economies in Ecowas, have reacted to the Macron-Quattara drama. Ghana is still in favour of the eco and the formation of a broader regional monetary union but will like to see a floating exchange rate rather than the Euro peg put out by France. “Although the government of Ghana is committed to do all it can to join the West African common currency arrangement, there are many unresolved issues regarding the common currency,” Bank of Ghana Governor Ernest Addison said earlier this month. This “would take time to resolve.”

Nigeria has taken a more cautious approach. “Nigeria has received the news of the change of name of the UEMOA currency, the CFA (Communaute Financiere d’Aafrique) to ECO supposedly as the ECOWAS Single currency. Nigeria is studying the situation and would respond in due course.” a statement by Yunusa Abdullahi, the spokesperson to the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Abuja, reads.

Statement by Yunusa Abdullahi, the spokesperson to the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Abuja,

Many keen analysts including Professor Ademola Araoye and Ambassador Rasheed Akinkuolie see a deeply plot in the Macron-Quattara charade aimed at destabilising the over two decade progress made to create a common and independent West African currency. The announcement was designed to awaken the historic rivalry African Nationalists and Pan-Africanist. This rivalry was exposed in the regional responses to tussle for power between Pan-Africanist, Laurent Gbagbo supported by Pan African leaders and Nationalist, Alassane Quattara supported by France. The French hope the current drama will reawaken the rivalry and thus destroy the decolonisation objective of the ECO.

Prominent Pan-Africanists have been reacting to the Macron-Quattara announcement. “Macron shouldn’t be the one to say our CFA is finished,” said Hervé Ouattara, the head of the Anti-CFA Front in Burkina Faso. “They are not respecting us.” The activist also accused both France and Ivory Coast of “acting unilaterally” and overriding regional bodies such as the Economic Community of West African States in its decision.  Kémi Séba, the controversial Franco-Béninois activist, who spearheaded a movement against the regional currency, the CFA,  has lambasted the announcement.

The ECOWAS states include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo—representing a total population of around 385 million. There is growing anti-France sentiments against its neo-colonial policies in Africa and especially former French colonies.


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