The economic community of West African states was founded in 1975, with the ultimate goal of economic independence and stability. A single currency for the whole sub-region was one of the objective they knew would help bring their goal to reality. Since the inception of the ECOWAS many obstacles and setbacks have hindered the success of their ultimate objective. One of their greatest difficulty was the ability to integrate the single currency due to the fact that some of the member states used different currencies, some of which are not controlled by the member countries. The other currencies are not so strong economically, as they are weak, prone to easy inflation and have minimal national resources to sustain the value of their currencies.
The ECOWAS community contains eight francophone countries, all of which use the cummunite financiere africaine (African Financial community) as a general currency. This currency is controlled and regulated by the French treasury. As at 1975, when the ECOWAS was founded the naira was exchanged at the rate of 70 kobo to $1, making the Nigerian naira one of the strongest currency in the ECOWAS sub-region at the time. The condition of the naira as dropped exponentially over the last forty years due to the challenges of instability and lack of foreign currency to meet imports demand.
The circumstance of the naira has put a huge bind in the plans of the ECOWAS states as their expectation was that the naira would eventually replace the CFA, which then would be used freely within the region and for foreign transactions. The solution to the current predicament plaguing the ECOWAS states dream of a single currency is dependent on the upgrading of the value of the Nigerian naira, by establishing measures to curtain the level of importation especially on those locally produced.
The current exchange rate of around #350 to $1 is a nightmare that the CBN is struggling to contain, as the naira is bent on taking another plunge into the red zone. This reality gives the ECOWAS community a laborious hill to climb, in order to have their goals achieved. On a track to resuscitation, one of the most important things that most change is the importation of refined petroleum. Nigeria must stop the importation of petroleum products and start refining it within our shores, also the rate of food importation is too alarming and for there to be hope there needs to be great change.
A former president of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo on Thursday said Nigeria would have achieved self-sufficiency in rice production and consumption if the administration of president Alh. Shehu Shagari had not stopped local production with the rice importation policy. Obasanjo reiterated that he recalled when Nigeria was on the verge of self-sufficiency in rice production in 1979 prior to his leaving office as the military head of state, but due to inconsistency in policy, the civilian government lead by Shagari open the door for rice importation which is a recurring problem in the country now.
Considering the so many policies and decisions that brought the Nigerian currency to this state, it begs question if there is still an iota of hope to the objective of the ECOWAS community. Will ECOWAS one day share a unified currency?Ismail Issa