The political motive for the Eco move is to ensure that Nigeria is permanently kept out of the currency. As Professor Ibrahim Gambari has always said, France has always defined itself as the main power block in Africa and so has always seen Nigeria's self-definition as an African power as a threat to its interests.
Last Saturday, France, through the instrumentality of its most faithful poodle in West Africa, Alasane Ouattara, kidnapped the West African currency that was to be launched next year for the 15 countries in the region. In a press conference in Abidjan, Presidents Macron and Ouattara announced that the eight West African countries using the CFA Franc currency would adopt the Eco as their new currency next year.
The announcement was done the day the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was meeting for a final adoption of Eco, also decided for 2020. The French move breaks up the 30-year struggle by ECOWAS to establish a regional currency to promote trade and development.
What France has done is that it takes over the responsibility of establishing and even printing the new currency and presents the other countries in the region with a fait accompli. France is also keeping the new currency attached to the Euro and therefore aligning it with its colonial interest, as it has always done with the CFA. This means that the other seven West African countries can only join on conditions established by France. The implication is that Nigeria is essentially kept out of the currency because the country will not accept the conditionalities established by France.
The long delay in establishing the Eco has been caused by the inability of the 15 ECOWAS countries to meet the convergence criteria they set for themselves. These are that the inflation rate of less than 5 per cent is maintained. The budget deficit is not more than 3 per cent of GDP and that each country has enough foreign reserves to cover at least three months of imports. The problem now is that after failing to meet these conditions over the past two decades, the eight countries have now adopted the currency without meeting them. This means economics has been set aside for political reasons.
There are three political factors that motivated the French decision to take over the baby that ECOWAS has had great difficulty in delivering.
France has become very unpopular in the Sahel because of widespread belief that it was pretending to fight the jihadists in public while supporting them in secret. People are saying that with its vast array of drones, planes and satellite cover, how are convoys of hundreds of terrorists able to drive over hundreds of kilometres and attack soldiers without any warning from the French.
In this tenth year of the battle against Boko Haram, in which France is a major player with troops, planes and drones on the ground, understanding the French role in West Africa is very important and my hope is that we have a strong working group following the issues.
Over the past few years, however, France has become very unpopular in the Sahel because of widespread belief that it was pretending to fight the jihadists in public while supporting them in secret. People are saying that with its vast array of drones, planes and satellite cover, how are convoys of hundreds of terrorists able to drive over hundreds of kilometres and attack soldiers without any warning from the French. These attacks have been happening with increasing regularity and devastating effect. President Macron has been very angry that Sahelians are criticising his country, that he ordered the presidents of the five Sahelian countries to report to Pau in southern France to be told off for not convincing their citizens that France is a good friend. A meeting, which was to hold this December, has been postponed to January following the killing of 71 soldiers in Niger by jihadists. France is therefore using the Eco currency launch as a public relations gimmick to rebuild its battered image.
A professor of Political Science and development consultant/expert, Jibrin Ibrahim is a Senior Fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development, and Chair of the Editorial Board of PREMIUM TIMES.
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