Common External Tariff for Economic Communities of West African States (ECOWAS) countries is expected to debut January 2015 as the much awaited common currency for the region has been shifted to 2020.
Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngodsi Okonjo-Iweala and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, dropped the hint at the 34th meeting of Convergence Council of the West Africa Monetary Zone, which came to a close at the weekend in Abuja.
According to Okonjo-Iweala, arrangements had been concluded for the common external tariff for countries in the ECOWAS sub-region and it is expected to be flagged off on January 1, 2015.
She said all the countries concerned were looking into the trade agreements so that individual countries would not become dumping grounds for frivolous exports.
On the much awaited Common Currency for the region, the minister disclosed that most of the countries were yet to meet the convergence criteria, hence the delay in the take-off of the common currency, which is aimed at unifying the markets of ECOWAS.
The minister added that the ECOWAS member states were being careful not to rush into the project to avoid failure.
Analysing the situation, the chairman, the Committee of Central Bank Governors and the governor of the CBN, Mr Emefiele, stated that appraisals over the years had continued to show that the level of macroeconomic convergence on the zone remained inadequate relative to the set targets.
Since 2009, he said, no two countries satisfied all the four primary convergence criteria for two years consecutively. Mr Emefiele said this might have informed the decision of Heads of State and Government to approve a Modified Gradualist Approach to monetary integration by 2020.
The apex bank governor, while noting that the performance of member states was inadequate, stated that member countries’ business cycle synchronisation in terms of real GDP, inflation, broad money and interest rates remained weak, while their level of institutional preparedness for the monetary union remained inadequate.
He said member countries continued to make remarkable progress towards the establishment of a common market and the implementation of ECOWAS Trade Integration Protocols and Convention, as well as significant progress towards the reforms of their financial systems.
Notwithstanding the shaky future of common currency, the CBN governor reminded his colleagues on the need for the ‘buying-in if all member states in the WANZ project.’
“We need to constantly update ourselves with the level of progress made, challenges and level of cooperation required in this regard. There is need for the intensification of efforts in the area of sensitisation of all stakeholders. We must individually endeavour to evaluate sign and ratify the various WANZ protocols and strive to implement them accordingly,” he said.
Also speaking on the issue, the Director-General of the West African Monetary Institute (WAMI), Dr Abwaku Englama, stated that Nigeria was the only country that satisfied all the four primary criteria, while Liberia and Sierra Leone satisfied three each.
He said Sierra Leone narrowly missed the fiscal deficit criterion with 4.07 per cent, hoping that in the next review, the country would achieve compliance of the primary convergence criteria.
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