Business - Business & Economy - News - June 21, 2021

ECOWAS approves ECO currency launch by 2027; restructures into seven Commissions

MEDIATRACNET

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has
approved the roadmap for the final roll-out of a common currency, ECO, for the region by 2027.
The 59th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and
Government of the regional group at its meeting on June 19, 2021 in Accra, Ghana noted the roadmap and urged the Ministerial Committee to continue to work towards resolving all outstanding issues to facilitate the process.
The planned introduction of the common currency for the 15-member countries of the group has been mired by disagreements between the Anglo-phone (English-speaking) members and their Francophone (French-speaking) counterparts.
As a result of the disagreements the plan to roll out the new currency  in 2020 was derailed.
In late December 2019, the Ivory Coast President, Alassane Ouattara unfolded the plan by the French-speaking countries in the region, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo, ro replace the West African CFA franc used by their colonial masters, France, with a new currency called the ECO.
The announcement met stiff resistance by the Anglophone counterparts led by Nigeria, who said the arrangement was never in line the agreement by all ECOWAS members in June 2019 to adopt a single currency to ensure regional integration.
The approval of the roadmap by the ECOWAS leaders under the Chairmanship of Ghanaian President and Chair of the Authority, Nana Akufo-Addo, suggests the disagreements may have been resolved to ensure the single currency takes off in the region as planned.
The Summit commended the Ministerial Committee on the Single Currency Programme for its diligence in implementing the decisions taken at its 58th Ordinary Session in January.
Also, the Summit resolved to adopt the Convergence and Macroeconomic Stability Pact between ECOWAS member States, whose convergence phase covers the period from 2022 to 2026 and the stability phase from
January 1, 2027.
On the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) established by the 55 member countries of the African Union to promote trade and regional integration, the ECOWAS leaders acknowledged the progress in the ratification of the agreement
and urged remaining member States to complete the process.
The Summit also directed the ECOWAS Commission to continue to
coordinate common positions for the negotiations to build on the acquis of ECOWAS.
On institutional reforms towards the optimal structure and size of the new ECOWAS Commission and the other Institutions, the Authority adopted a 7-member Commission as its new size beginning March 2022. The Commission’s current structure has  15 Commissions, which members have always criticised as unweildy and costly to maintain.
The Authority reiterated its commitment to the objectives of improved performance and operational efficiency of ECOWAS Institutions, by further streamlining ECOWAS operating costs, to promote the implementation of integration programmes geared towards the economic and social development of the region.
Authority mandated the Chairperson, Akufo-Addo, to continue efforts relating to the allocation of statutory
positions and streamlining operational costs in ECOWAS Institutions.
Reaffirming the commitment of ECOWAS to deepening the integration process in West Africa, the Authority endorsed the main recommendations in the various reports submitted for its consideration.
Noting the stability in the COVID-19 situation in the region, the Summit said the vaccination in all member countries with vaccines
provided by COVAX initiative was on course.
The Summit commended the recent decision of the G7 countries to provide additional vaccine to developing countries, adding that it encourages the West Africa Health Organization to intensify its efforts to mobilise  partnership for the production of anti-COVID vaccines in the region.
It stressed the need to introduce biometric passport in the region to help monitor the vaccination programme.
The ECOWAS Commission President, the summit said, should liaise with the member states and West African Health Organisation (WAHO) on the modalities to accelerate the re-opening of land borders in a safe manner during the pandemic in line with the agreed ECOWAS Harmonised Guidelines for Free Movement of People and Goods
during pandemics.
On peace, security and democracy  the summit reaffirmed its commitment to the promotion of peace, security, and stability in the region as prerequisites for the economic integration and
development of the region.
On preventive diplomacy, the Authority welcomed the re-constitution and repositioning of the ECOWAS Council of the Wise to effectively support the ECOWAS Preventive Diplomacy and Mediation efforts in member states.
The Authority endorsed the list of the members of the Council of the Wise and noted the election Nigeria’s former President, Goodluck  Jonathan and Saran Daraba from Guinea as Chair and Vice-Chairperson of the Council respectively.
The Authority expressed concern over the festering security situation in the region, and reaffirmed its
determination to combat the scourge of terrorism.
While condemning the recurrence of terrorist attacks in frontline countries, like Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Nigeria, it expressed solidarity with the affected countries and their people.
The Authority expressed concern over the worsening humanitarian situation in the region as a result of the terrorist attacks and effects of climate change.
In that regard, the Authority reaffirmed the need to strengthen ECOWAS humanitarian interventions and coordination with relevant humanitarian actors.
The Summit appealed to member States to expedite payment of their voluntary contributions to the Fund dedicated for the implementation of the 2020 – 2024 Action Plan for the eradication of terrorism in the Region.
It directs the ECOWAS Commission to strengthen resource mobilization efforts, including taking advantage of the resource mobilization for the Plan of Action.
The Authority expresses concern over the destabilising effect of the
operations of mercenary groups from Libya and calls for a concerted
international action aimed at urgently resolving this issue, involving the disarmament of the mercenary groups.
The Authority expressed the need to enhance the optimization of synergies among the various security, defence, and intelligence agencies across ECOWAS region to facilitate swift and appropriate responses to existing and emerging threats.
To this effect, the Authority endorsed the establishment of a permanent Forum of West African National Security Advisers and directed the President of the Commission to ensure effective functioning and proper coordination and complementarity with the existing
ECOWAS defence and security committees.
On maritime safety and security, the Authority reiterates its call on member States to fully implement the measures adopted at national, regional, and continental levels to ensure maritime security and safety in the Gulf of Guinea.
It directed the President of the Commission to take appropriate
measures, in consultation with member States, to fully operationalize the ECOWAS Maritime Security Architecture. 
On the region’s economic performance, the Summit noted that after a negative growth of 0.8 percent in 2020 linked to the negative effects of COVID-19, it welcomed the recovery announced in 2021 with a
projected gross domestic product (GDP) increase of 3.5 percent in 2021. It urged member States to
accelerate the implementation of economic stimulus programmes and projects to support the ongoing recovery. 
Noting the need to implement sizeable financing plans for the
economies of the region to support recovery, the Summit welcomed the
various initiatives underway, particularly the Paris Summit for the Financing of African Economies, as well as the G20 initiatives relating to the restructuring of the debts of developing countries and called for their speedy implementation.
The Authority commended the AfDB Group for launching a facility to support African countries, including  ECOWAS  member countries, to address the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, as eell as the bank’s support to the Group of 5 Sahel countries aimed at strengthening
national health systems.
It also commended the Bank for its support of $22 million to the WAHO to tackle the scourge of the pandemic.
The Authority noted the proposal of the AfDB to develop an African
Financial Stability Mechanism to protect the continent against external and internal shocks as well as a Security-Indexed Investment Bonds to leverage resources on the global capital markets to reinforce security in the ECOWAS
region.
Consequently, it called on the AfDB to work with the ECOWAS Commission to develop the Investment Bonds, while urging it to support quality health care
infrastructure and develop pharmaceutical industries in ECOWAS countries, including the manufacture of vaccines.
On border issues, while congratulating Guinea and Sierra Leone for reopening their land borders, the Authority further commended the spirit of asolidarity and dialogue that led to the signing of the Military and Technical Cooperation Agreement between Senegal and Guinea, paving the way for the imminent reopening of their borders.
It encouraged other member States, like Guinea yet to reopen their borders with Guinea Bissau to work towards achieving that goal.
“ECOWAS will stand by these countries to accompany them in this endeavour,” the Summit said.
On the proposed mechanism for rotation of ECOWAS member States’ candidature to the Chairmanship of the African Union, the Authority noted the report on a mechanism to ensure predictability, transparence, and fairness in the rotation process within ECOWAS Member States when their turn arises.
The Authority endorsed the criteria set up in the Report and the subsequent rotation proposed within ECOWAS Member States for the chairmanship position of the African Union.
Other resolutions during the Summit included congratulatory message to Guinea on the information about the declaration by the World Health
Organisation of the end of the Ebola outbreak in the country and their strong commitment in
fighting the epidemics, with the assistance of WAHO.
The 59th Session of the Authority was held on June 19, 2021 under the
Chairmanship of  Ghanaian President and Chair of the Authority, Nana Akufo-Addo.
The Summit was attended
Presidents Patrice Talon of Benin;
Roch Kabore (Burkina Faso); Jorge Fonseca, (Cabe Verde); Alassane (Cote d’lvoire); Adama Barrow, (Gambia); Alpha Conde (Guinea);  Umaro Embalo (Guinea Bissau); Georges  Weah (Liberia); Muhammadu Buhari (Nigeria);
Julius Bio (Sierra Leone), and Faure Gnassingbe (Togo).
Also in attendance were former Nigerian President and ECOWAS Mediator for Mali, Godluck Jonathan; Prime Minister and Head of Government of Niger, Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou; Minister of Foreign Affairs of Senegal, AissataTall Sall; President of ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Brou; Secretary General of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF),Louise Mushikiwabo; President  African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, and Special Representative of the United Nations
Secretary General for West Africa, and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Mahamat Saleh Annadif.

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