ECOWAS monetary Union Summit for Conakry in October

Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- ECOWAS leaders will meet in Conakry, Guinea 14-18 October, to review the progress on the community's monetary union, ECOWAS Executive Secretary Mohamed Ibn Chambas disclosed in Dakar Wednesday.
The eight-member West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) within the 15-nation ECOWAS, constitutes the CFA franc zone, while five member States of the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) committed themselves to meeting a convergence criteria by 2003 to pave way for the single ECOWAS currency in 2004.
But given the delay by five WAMZ countries - The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, to achieve the convergence, linked to the reduction of budget deficits and high rate of inflation, the monetary targets appear unrealistic.
Chambas said the Conakry Summit "will make a critical analysis on how to revise the targets.
" He acknowledged that the single monetary union was critical to the sub-region's integration process, adding that ECOWAS leaders were determined to speed up the process.
"The average per capita income in ECOWAS countries is 400 US dollars or less, despite our huge resources and a big market of more than 200 million people," Chambas lamented.
To improve the situation, he said, ECOWAS was latching on to the lofty programmes of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).
"We have to remove obstacles to trade, tariff and non-tariff barriers, roadblocks, harassment at our border posts and increase our production to be competitive," the ECOWAS Executive Secretary recommended.
He said the integration pace would be faster if ECOWAS members followed through the implementation of adopted programmes, such as the Energy Pool scheme and the Gas pipeline project, to pipe Nigeria's natural gas currently being flared away to several countries in the sub-region.
According to Chambas, the two projects would reduce the cost of energy consumption and stimulate industrial production in the sub-region.
He also cited progress on the ECOWAS Passport scheme designed to facilitate business and movement of persons within the community.
Benin has launched the Passport, while Nigeria, Senegal and Ghana, he said, were in advanced stages of the process.
Chambas, who assumed office last February, also mentioned the ECOWAS Parliament and Court of Justice, as pillars that would fortify democracy, personal freedoms and economic integration.
On the estimated 30 million dollars owed the Secretariat by member States in contribution arrears, he said the problem was being addressed through the ECOWAS Community levy.
According to him, most member countries have opened the relevant bank accounts for the lodgement of proceeds from levy, which would be fully operational next year.
In addition to the payment of assessed contributions, he said the proceeds would also be used to set up a Solidarity Fund and a Peace Fund for the Community.
"On the whole, it is a challenging job.
We need a stable democratic society in order to achieve economic growth, create a borderless West Africa and realise the aspirations of our people," Chambas added.

14 august 2002 21:01:00

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