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West African bloc aims to launch single currency

Farah Bahgat
June 19, 2021

West Africa's 15-nation bloc has a new plan to introduce its long-time dream of a single currency after several delays, most recently due to the coronavirus pandemic.

File photo of the common West African CFA franc currency.
ECOWAS' Francophone countries have used the French-backed CFA franc currencyImage: Getty Images/AFP/I. Sanogo

The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Saturday announced 2027 as the new date to launch its single currency, the "eco."

The bloc had planned to launch a common currency this year but postponed the plan due to challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

"Due to the shock of the pandemic, the heads of state had decided to suspend the implementation of the convergence pact in 2020-2021," Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, president of the ECOWAS Commission, told a news conference after a summit of the leaders in Ghana on Saturday.

"We have a new road map and a new convergence pact that will cover the period between 2022-2026, and 2027 being the launch of the eco," he said. 

New currency plans delayed again

For decades, the bloc had hoped that the idea of a common currency would boost cross-border trade and economic development.

The concept of a single currency was first raised in ECOWAS in 2003. Its introduction, however, has been delayed multiple times before this year: in 2005, 2010, 2014.

ECOWAS has faced several challenges to launch the eco, with several of the bloc's member states under economic pressure and struggling to pay their national debts, as well as political instability, such as in Mali. 

The French-backed CFA franc, which is pegged to the euro, is currently used in eight West African countries.

In 2019, Ivory Coast's President Alassane Ouattara announced renaming the CFA franc to "eco," sparking backlash from ECOWAS' English-speaking members.