June 23, 2020 / 7:01 PM / 22 days ago

Nigeria's Buhari sees threat to West African currency plan

FILE PHOTO - Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari addresses the nation over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Abuja, Nigeria April 27, 2020. Nigeria Presidency/Handout via REUTERS

ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said on Tuesday that West Africa’s plan to adopt a common currency was being put at risk by some countries’ attempts to progress more quickly than the agreed timetable.

Nations in the region are aiming to adopt a single currency to boost trade and economic growth.

Nigeria, the largest economy in West Africa, currently operates a managed float for its currency, while several other countries peg theirs to the euro.

Buhari told the heads of state of the 15-member West African Community of African States in a virtual meeting that he was concerned francophone countries - such as Ivory Coast and Senegal - had decided to replace their currencies with the new unified one, the Eco, ahead of others.

“It, therefore, gives me an uneasy feeling that the UEMOA Zone (francophone countries) now wishes to take up the Eco in replacement for its CFA Franc ahead of the rest of the member states,” the Nigerian leader said, arguing the move could jeopardise the project.

Buhari said Nigeria was committed to the single currency and urged leaders to take a common position to safeguard the region.

“We cannot ridicule ourselves by entering a union to disintegrate, potentially no sooner than we enter into it,” Buhari told the meeting.

He acknowledged the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic could make member states cautious about complying with agreed standards as economies face recession. Several West African countries rely on commodities, whose prices are regulated on international markets.

Writing by Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Mark Potter

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