Policy analysts and experts in the banking industry say the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) might miss its target of attaining a single currency to facilitate business activities in the sub-region if the proper structures are not put in place on time.
A panel of seven comprising the Liberian Central Bank’s Richard Dolley, Abu Bakarr Jallon of Bank of Sierra Leone, Joleen Young of Standard Bank, Peter Prom of Bank of The Gambia as well as Alian Raes and Christian Sarafidis both of SWIFT, hinted that the 2015 deadline for the common currency ECO could be realized if the appropriate infrastructure and the ideal environment were instituted.
The concern was raised at the second SWIFT-WAMZ Business Forum in Accra, where representatives of Ghana, Nigeria, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, six West African countries participating in the project, deliberated on the opportunities and challenges hindering efforts toward the much touted financial integration.
This year’s forum themed, “Building on regional integration to deliver excellence in customer service” brought together policy makers, regulators and senior bankers from the WAMZ region for a critical discussion on how regionalization would work for their business.
At the forum, delegates were informed about efforts towards effectively executing the WAMZ project.
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“Are you optimistic about the eco currency?” quizzed the moderator of a panel discussion, Christian Sarafidis, who is also the head of Western Europe, Middle East and Africa for SWIFT.
Richard Dorley, Senior Advisor to the Executive Governor on Multilateral Affairs of the Liberian Central Bank said, “Yes, I am ‘cautiously optimistic. If 2015 is the ideal date then it would depend on what happens between now and 2015.”
Abu Bakarr Jalloh, Director Banking Department and National Cordinator of WAMZ Payments Systems Development Project of the Bank of Sierra Leone was of the view that the central banks and commercial banks would have to interact more regularly.
Joleen Young, Head of Payment Service Providers Franchise at the Standchart Bank, said the creation of a single currency was not the top priority of commercial banks.
Alain Raes, Chief Executive of SWIFT Middle East and Africa, said his outfit has “the worth of experience and expertise which is ready to share with all the participating countries.”
Peter Prom, Director of IT Department of the Central Bank of the Gambia said “what currency would it be, would it be the Naira or Cedi? It’s time we started looking at the stop gabs.”
WAMZ was endorsed in December 1999 by the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to facilitate the achievement of the goal of a single monetary zone in the sub-region.