Economist counsels Nigeria, Ghana, others to jump-start regional currency

An economist, Professor Akpan Ekpo, has urged the Federal Government of Nigeria to collaborate with countries like Ghana, Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire to inaugurate the ‘Eco’ single currency to boost regional trade and economic growth in the ECOWAS sub-region.

Ekpo, a former director-general of the West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management (WAIFEM), gave the advice in an interview with newsmen on Sunday, in Lagos.

The economist said that the region only needs “political will” for the take-off and once the currency is launched, economies would find their place and other players would follow.

Ekpo’s reaction came against the backdrop of the new road map agreed to by the Heads of State of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to launch the ‘Eco’ single currency in 2027.

The currency had been slated for launch in 2020, but was derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic; in addition to the inability of member states to meet its convergence criteria: inflation, debt-to-GDP ratio, budget deficits and their financing, reserves and exchange rate stability.

According to Ekpo, if countries wait to meet the criteria, there will never be a single currency because countries meet the criteria at different times and most often not all of the important criteria.

“There is what is called ‘point of convergence’. If you let two or three countries that are big in the region like Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and Cote d’voire, to jump-start it, if they have the ‘political will’ to do so, it will solve the problem.

“Look at Nigeria’s inflation rate; it’s almost 18 per cent now, food inflation 20 per cent. So, the problem is, do they have the political will to do that?

“For instance, in the Francophone countries, CFA is tied to the Euro and all of them almost meet the criteria. If they disentangle their money from the Euro, they will have high inflation rates, for example.

“I am happy that Nigeria is not rushing into it because, if they convert now, Nigeria will bear the burden for all other countries,” he said.