Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A new start, and What is ECOWAS?

When I first set this blog up, I was going to cover every country in Africa. It didn't happen. So I'm going to scale back and just cover the countries in ECOWAS, which are mostly the countries I've spent time in. 

What is ECOWAS, you ask? It is the Economic Community of West African States. I thought about just covering the UEMOA countries (West African Economic and Monetary Union) but that is just francophone countries and I love Ghana so I decided on ECOWAS. 

The countries in ECOWAS are Benin (where I served in the Peace Corps), Burkina Faso (where I attended FESPACO!), Cape Verde, Cote d'Ivoire (where I biked my first century), Gambia, Ghana (home of Milly's Backyard!), Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali (home of Sekou Oumarou!), Niger (challenging for vegetarians!), Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo (the only place I ever attended a beauty pageant).

Here they are in a map, courtesy of Wikipedia:

The green countries are the members of UEMOA. They share a common currency, the CFA Franc, which used to be pegged to the French Franc but since that doesn't exist anymore it is now pegged to the Euro. You can read about the CFA Franc if you want to in this Wikipedia post or if you want to read something more academic you can read this article by David Stasavage. Here is a picture of a 10,000 CFA Franc note:

Pretty, right? 

The red countries are members of the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ), which Wikipedia describes as "a group of six countries within ECOWAS that plan to introduce a common currency, the Eco, by the year 2015." Oh wait, it is 2015! Looks like the Eco hasn't been launched on schedule. Maybe with everything happening with the Euro they decided it's not such a great idea after all. Here is an academic article by William Miles that argues that the benefits (increased trade, etc.) of a common currency among these six countries would probably NOT outweigh the problems (macroeconomic instability, etc.).  

Indeed, the Eco has been abandoned, as reported recently, after several delays: "The Zone witnessed series of postponements of the launch date for the currency including, January 2003, July 1, 2005, December 1, 2009, and January 1, 2015." Instead, the plan now is to have a common currency for the whole ECOWAS region by 2020. We'll see how that goes. 

You can read about ECOWAS in the Wikipedia post, or the official ECOWAS website.

I think that's enough for now. Later, or maybe tomorrow, I'll start journalling some country-level events. 

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