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West Africa's Central Bank Governor Promotes Single Currency

  • Drew Hinshaw

General view of the BCEAO Bank tower in Dakar, Senegal (2008 file photo)

General view of the BCEAO Bank tower in Dakar, Senegal (2008 file photo)

The Interim governor of the central bank for eight West African nations says Africa needs a single currency to realize its enormous economic potential.

Central bank leaders from throughout Africa met in Senegal to discuss ideas about how they better integrate economies across this landmass, which is home to more countries than any other continent.

But if African leaders want to truly blur borders and blend economies, West African Central Bank Governor Jean-Baptiste Compaore told his colleagues the continent needs to share more than ideas. He said it needs to have a single currency, a banknote for all of Africa.

Compaore is the interim governor for the BCEAO, a central bank that manages the money used in eight West African nations, most of them former French colonies.

"I would like to reiterate the engagement of the BCAEO towards bringing about monetary integration in Africa," he said.

Compaore says the conclusion by bank leaders remains the profound conviction the goal of a single-African currency is a necessity for the development of our continent and its harmonious insertion into the global economy.

The idea of a common currency for Africa's 54 nations has an old pedigree dating back to the days of independence.

In the early 1960s, as Africa broke free from European colonialism, liberation figures like Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah or Kenya' Jomo Kenyatta imagined forming this continent jigsawed by colonial borders into a single world power: the United States of Africa.

Subsequent decades did not witness a United States of Africa. They witnessed coup d'etats, civil war, and military rule throughout much of the continent that dampened political and economic room for such monumental endeavors.

In the midst of long-stagnant economies and financial instability, only a handful of African nations have ever pledged support for the Afro, the currency the African Union has proposed for a united Africa.

But in the 21st century, Compaore says the continent's nations are enjoying newfound prosperity that comes with newfound opportunities.

The continent expertly swerved the economic crash that brought greater economies low, he said. Many of its nations are experiencing growth rates they have never observed.

He says, during these next few years, the continent should record even more satisfying economic performances. That would allow us to become one of the principal centers of economic growth in the world.

The total economy of sub-Saharan Africa is expected to grow by 5.5 percent this year, a full percentage point faster than the world average. Since the year 2000, it has grown faster than any part of the world outside of China and its neighbors.