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Okonjo-Iweala warns against hasty ECOWAS single currency launch

The Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Thursday cautioned the Council of Ministers and Governors of Central Banks of the West African Monetary Zone against a hasty launch of the monetary union for the sub-region.

The warning is coming 24 hours after it emerged that the January 1, 2015 take-off date for the use of a single currency in the sub-region was no longer realisable.

The six countries that made up the WAMZ are Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Ghana and Guinea.

The single currency-Eco was first planned to be introduced in 2003, but its launch was postponed several times to 2005, 2010 and 2014.

At a meeting of the Convergence Council of Ministers and Governors of West Africa on May 25, 2009, the take-off of the currency was rescheduled to 2015 due to the international economic crisis.

Speaking in Abuja at the opening session of the 34th meeting of the convergence council ministers and governors of central banks of the WAMZ, Okonjo-Iweala said rather than rushing to launch the monetary union, the council should consider a sustainable take-off that would stand the test of time.

She urged the council to consider developments in the Eurozone and ensure that the lessons learnt were integrated into its recommendations in order to avoid the pitfalls that bedevilled the European monetary zone.

Okonjo-Iweala said, “I urge you all to work hard towards meeting the set target date. We must not forget that the most sacrosanct objective in this endeavour is not a hasty launch of a monetary union, but an enduring and sustainable one that will stand the test of time when it eventually takes off.

“It may only take some time to launch when we are comfortable that the economic fundamentals to achieve a strong monetary union are in place.”

Also speaking, the President, ECOWAS Commission, Mr. Kadre Ouedraogo, said the zone had adopted a revised roadmap with clearly defined responsibilities to the regional institutions involved in the monetary integration process.

He said, “It is clear that the intended aim is not to rush to create a currency without a solid economic foundation.

“The aim is not only to draw lessons from successive postponements of missed deadlines in 2003, 2005, 2009 and probably 2015 for the WAM, but also take into consideration the factors behind the Euro crisis; that is to say, the fiscal and budgetary problems.”

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