By Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has tasked ministers of finance, central bank governors and other stakeholders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member states to anchor the ongoing efforts for regional integration and single currency for the West Africa sub-region on sound and sustainable macro-economic fundamentals.
Buhari noted that the sub-region had reached a delicate stage in the integration agenda, urging the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) to work, especially to strengthen macro-economic indicators and streamline convergence as well as involve the formal and informal institutional frameworks and mindset to support them in attaining the socio-economic optimum of integration.
Buhari, who spoke at the ongoing 40th meeting of the “Convergence Council of Ministers and Governors of Central Banks of the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ)” in Abuja Friday, noted that economic convergence must be based on sound and sustainable macro-economic fundamentals.
The president, who was represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, commended the dedication and support of member states for the implementation of the regional integration agenda, which he described as a veritable means of attaining the economic development goals of ECOWAS member countries.
Buhari acknowledged the challenges that had trailed the bid for a common currency, with numerous postponements over the past decade and half, including the recent directive by ECOWAS for a reversal to a single track approach in lieu of the double track approach adopted in the past.
He said: “This development requires that you take a critical look at the framework and make constructive recommendations towards charting a new course for the zone.”
Buhari also observed the need to reconsider the status of West Africa Monetary Institute (WAMI) with a view to converting it into a commission.
His position was predicated on the proposed merger of WAMI and West Africa Monetary Agency (WAMA) by the ECOWAS Commission into ECOWAS Monetary Institute (WAMI), a possibility he noted, would leave WAMI with no forum to exchange ideas and discuss matters of common interest to the English-speaking countries in the ECOWAS.
“To that end, Nigeria would await the outcome of the working group but restated its commitment to the integration programme whence all the issues are raise critically and amicably resolved,” the president stated.
The issues of fiscal and banking union for example, he added, should be carefully studied and taken onboard with a view to also identifying those developments that drive fiscal policy implementation in member countries and relate them to the overall objective.
“We have reached a delicate stage in our integration agenda. WAMZ must work, especially to strengthen macro-economic indicators and streamline convergence as well as involve the formal and informal institutional frameworks and mindset to support them in attaining the socio-economic optimum of integration.
“Towards this goal, our focus should be centred on public investment in agriculture, fisheries, tourism, construction, manufacturing and energy; keeping in mind the need for prudent macro-economic management.
“This approach will not in doubt provide the urgent need for economic diversification in all our member-countries, and the need to continue to strengthen our resilience to economic shocks by rebuilding the much needed buffers,” the president added.
In his opening address, the Chairman of the Convergence Council, Hon. Mambury Njie, said low commodity prices have negatively affected development in African countries, adding that the phenomenon requires appropriate policy response by leaders of the region.
While alluding to the vulnerability of African economies to external influence, Njie, who is also the Minister of Finance and Economic Affair of The Gambia, called for “focus on implementation of sound economic policies and programmes”.
The West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) is being hosted by Nigeria in Abuja where the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, formally received a handover note as the elected chairman of the body.
The gathering is critical for the region, it is coming barely 18 months to the target set for the introduction of ECOWAS single currency.