The Economic Community for West African States, a group of 15 countries in the region of West Africa, was meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, on Saturday. Amongst the many decisions taken, the most interesting one for us travelers is certainly the adoption of a new common currency.
The new currency, called the Eco, shall be launched by 2020. It shall replace the currency currently used in all these countries. At the moment, eight of the fifteen countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo) are already sharing a currency, the CFA franc, which was pegged on the euro and seen as a remnant of the colonial era for most of these countries, previously colonized by France for the most part. The other countries (Benin, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone) would be trading their current individual currencies for a new one.
The move is seen as a bold but strong political move. The previous CFA franc was insured by France and now the future of the Eco, while free of foreign intervention, is not guaranteed.
This decision comes at the end of a thirty year discussion. The establishment of this currency has now been postponed many times and 2020 is the latest date given. The design and denominations of the Eco have yet to be released.
As frequent travelers, a common currency saves us a lot of hassle while planning overland trips throughout West Africa. If the currency fares well on the market, it might also help greatly the countries of West Africa in their international business. However, some money collector might lament diversity slowly disappearing as countries regroup under common currencies.
One thing is certain, YPT shall be using the Eco more and more in the future, with more destinations in West Africa, such as Mali and Burkina Faso, being added to our catalog of tours every year.