Nigeria and five other English-speaking West African countries have condemned the decision of their French-speaking counterparts to unilaterally rename the CFA Franc as ECO by 2020.
This came as the French President Emmanuel Macron during a recent visit to Ivory Coast announced at a joint news conference with the Ivorian President that France is working towards revamping the CFA franc.
CFA Franc, known as “Colonies Francaises d’Afrique,” was established in 1945.
The currency was initially pegged to the French franc, but has been linked to the euro since 1999.
CFA Franc is used by eight states in West and Central Africa that is Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo.
The revamped currency will be renamed the “ECO” in 2020.
During the news conference, Macron, described colonialism as a “grave mistake and a fault of the republic”.
On his official Twitter, he added that the move to drop the CFA franc is part of France’s plan to rebuild relations with its former African colonies.
However, the six English-speaking West African countries issued the condemnation of the action of their French-speaking counterparts at the end of a crucial extraordinary meeting of their ministers of finance and governors of their central banks on Thursday.
They met in Abuja under the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) on the ECOWAS single currency programme.
The communiqué released at the end of the meeting was read on behalf of other member countries by Nigeria’s Minister for Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed.
The six countries involved in the meeting are Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
According to the communique, they took note of the declaration by the Chairman of the Authority of the Heads of State and Government of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) on December 21, 2019, to unilaterally rename the CFA Franc as ECO by 2020.
“WAMZ Convergence Council wishes to emphasize that this action is inconsistent with the decision of the Authority of the Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS for the adoption of the ECO as the name of an independent ECOWAS single currency.
“WAMZ Convergence Council wishes to reiterate the need for all ECOWAS member countries to implement the decision of the Authority of the Heads of State and Government towards the implementation of the revised roadmap of the ECOWAS single currency programme.
“WAMZ Convergence Council would be recommending an extraordinary summit of the Authority of the Heads of State and Government of the WAMZ member states will be convened soon to discuss this matter and other related issues,” the communiqué concluded.
The Chairman of the Alliance for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (ASDA), Dr Prosper Ladislas Agbesi, has called on the leadership of the ECOWAS Sub-region and the international community to step into the political situation in Benin and bring order in the interest of the people.
To this end, he suggested the establishment of a government of National Unity so as to return the country to true democracy.
Dr. Agbesi – a leading opposition political figure and the presidential Candidate of the Alliance for New Congress (ANC) in the 2016 elections told journalists in an interview that, President Patrice Tolon, has failed the people and so must step aside for new elections to bring the country back its former glory.
He has given the incumbent president up to 90 days to resign because the people of Benin have demonstrated clearly that they do not want him as their president. He said security has failed in the country and businesses are suffering, coupled with the rising bad image of the country internationally, are good reasons for any president who truly cares for his people to take a decent bow for a more competent person to take over and help the people.
“He has been a president for only three years but the people have demonstrated clearly that they are not comfortable with him. By the constitution of Benin, he is not our president. He is creating fear in the country. Many people have gone on exile because they are in fear,” he stated.
Dr. Agbesi was at pain that a country which was once seen as a leading democracy in Africa could be reduced to an almost one party state, where opposition parties do not have a representation even in parliament. He said there are evidence that President Patrice Tolon has become very unpopular in the country, for which reason he is making moves to change the constitution through strange and unconventional means.
About a month to the recent parliamentary elections in Benin, the Electoral Commission of that country promulgated a new law that disqualified all other political parties excerpt the President’s party. This led to huge apathy with only a fraction of the people turning up to vote on the Election Day.
The electoral authorities ruled in March that only two parties - both loyal to President Patrice Talon - met the requirements to take part. New electoral laws meant a party had to pay about $424,000 (£328,000) to field a list for the 83-seat parliament.
“So we are saying that you can’t have a country that excludes the opposition in decision making. Less than 10 percent of the population voted in the parliamentary elections and so it is not a representation of the people,” he stated.
Dr Ladislas Prosper Agbesi, Executive Chairman, Pan African Business Forum
According to Dr Agbesi, for causing the abuse of the democratic rights of the people of Benin, President Tolon must resign from office immediately. He called on the ECOWAS not to recognise him as the President of Benin. He also urged the formation of a government of unity which would include all leading political figures who have gone on exile because of intimidation from President Tolon.
“I want ECOWAS, the African Union and the United Nations to take serious sanctions against this man. I am giving him 90 days to resign. I want the EU to take serious actions against him because the people are not happy with him,” Dr. Agbesi stated.
Among others, Dr Agbesi accused President Tolon of being in an alliance with terrorists groups in the sub-region, which according to him is one of the reasons he does not want to leave the country.
“He wants to bring the terrorists to come for our oil. If we don’t take the country away from him, Benin will soon become a centre of terrorists. The international community must do something quickly to take the country away from him. It is very important for the UN and ECOWAS to do something quickly before it becomes worse. “We don’t want our country to become a base for terrorists and that is what this man wants to do. That is why we have to take the country from him now,” he stated.
Benin has witnessed post-election violence in recent times with a group of armed soldiers in an uneasy standoff with unarmed civilians on the streets of the capital – Cotonou. Security forces have been put on high alert following days of post-election violence.
This was after the parliamentary election that took place in April this year but without any of the opposition parties contesting. Military men allegedly scattered demonstrations when the members of the opposition called for the annulment of the parliamentary election.
The Abidjan protocol on free roaming is now active across Benin after the country became the eighth nation in West Africa to enforce the regional agreement which facilitates a reduction in the cost of communication for consumers.
Flavien Bacahbi, President of Beninese Communication regulator Autorité de régulation des communications électroniques et de la poste (Arcep) confirmed the development and said it delivered on the plan first announced almost two months ago. An excerpt from official documents reads: “Since Wednesday the 1st of March 2018, the project “Free Roaming” of West Africa is back in its active phase in Benin.
Following the signing on Tuesday, December 12, 2017 in Dakar, Senegal, of the Act of Accession to the Memorandum of Understanding on the Basic Principles for the Implementation of Free Roaming in West Africa the regulatory authority made implementation of this agreement effective by taking decision No. 2018-11 setting the tariffs for users of electronic communications services while roaming in Benin under the memorandum of understanding on free roaming.”
Bachabi says the new fixed rates for roaming in Benin will cost 130 FCFA TTC for voice calls per minute and 50 FCFA TTC for each SMS on local roaming (inside Benin), while a charge of 300 FCFA TTC will apply for international voice calls per minute and 90 FCFA TTC for every international SMS to other countries that are signatories to the Abidjan protocol.
Other countries that have already implemented the free roaming agreement in West Africa include Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinée Conakry, Mali, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone and Togo.
Operators in Benin were given thirty days to conduct connectivity tests and implement measures for the roll out of the new tariffs, according to Arcep. The regulator further instructed operators to establish roaming agreements with at least one other operator in each of the countries covered by the Abidjan protocol.
Ministers in charge of Telecommunications and ICT across the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) approved the free regional roaming regulation for member countries in October last year.
Dr Isaias Barreto da Rosa, ECOWAS Commissioner for Telecoms and ICT emphasised that free roaming would impact the lives on people living in member countries positively when the decision was first communicated.
“This decision is historic and something expected to touch the lives of ordinary ECOWAS citizens and bring tremendous contributions to our regional integration process as we strive to establish a single digital market in the sub-region and as we move from and ECOWAS of States to an ECOWAS of people.”
Other African regional blocs taking steps to abolish call roaming charges include COMESA following an agreement in principle four months ago and SADC through its ‘roam like at home’ initiative which is yet to be finalised.
ECOWAS Ministers in charge of Telecommunications and ICT have approved the free regional roaming regulation for ECOWAS Member countries.
The endorsement of the regional roaming regulation came during the 15th Meeting of the concerned Ministers which held on the 6th of October, in Praia Cabo Verde.
The ECOWAS Commissioner for Telecoms and ICT, Dr Isaias Barreto da Rosa described the decision as historic and something expected to “touch the lives of ordinary ECOWAS citizens and bring tremendous contributions to our regional integration process as we strive to establish a single digital market in the sub-region and as we move from and ECOWAS of States to an ECOWAS of people”.
The approved free regional roaming regulation includes a clear implementation roadmap which will start at the beginning of 2018.
Also during the ministerial meeting, a number of other important decisions were also made to foster the development of the ICT sector in West Africa. This includes a revised supplementary act on Universal Access and Service and its funding for digital access.
In addition to these is a list of laboratories selected for the accreditation of DTT decoders in the region to ensure compliance with the ECOWAS adopted standards; Regional Spectrum Coordination Committee, etc.
Another important subject discussed during this meeting was the promotion of cyber security in West Africa and the ECOWAS cyber security agenda. This initiative aims at assisting ECOWAS Member States to develop their national cyber security strategies, to establish national Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) as well as to improve cyber legislation and train judges prosecutors, law enforcement agents, etc.
Experts from ECOWAS member states had met in Praia from 2nd to 5th October 2017 preparatory to the ministerial meeting.