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Analysts Note Benefits of New West Africa Central Bank Chief

  • Drew Hinshaw

Leaders from francophone West African countries have named a new governor to lead the region's central bank. The appointment is meant to bring stability to an organization that was thrown into disorder during Ivory Coast's political crisis.

Analysts say the appointment of a new leader at the Central Bank for West African States may be the best sign yet for Ivory Coast, its economy, and its neighbors who share its currency. Eight nations in West Africa use the CFA franc, a colorful banknote lent out by the regional bank.

Tiemoko Meyliet Kone, named yesterday to lead the central bank, replaces an interim governor, who himself replaced a prominent Laurent Gbagbo supporter who was forced out of office in the middle of Ivory Coast's conflict.

The bank is a Baobab tree-shaped building on Dakar's coast, but for the past six months, it has been rendered chaotic by the violent post-election power struggle in faraway Ivory Coast.

The conflict wound to a tenuous close last month, when forces loyal to internationally-recognized President Alassane Ouattara captured the defiant incumbent Mr. Gbagbo, who had rejected election results and was orchestrating an armed resistance from his bunker.

Banks and businesses in the capital have since reopened, ships carrying tons of cocoa have resumed operations at the port, and workers have returned to Abidjan, once the financial capital of the Francophone tropics.

Now, with a sense of stability returning to the bank, economists say Abidjan is more ready to resume that role.

Kone takes over a bank that was somewhat purged during what may have been the most Africa's most divisive conflict in a decade.

The power struggle between former president Gbagbo and current President Ouattara - himself a former Central Bank governor - pitted the continent's most influential nations like Angola, which supported Gbagbo, and Nigeria, which didn't, against each other.

It carried the same impact on the central bank, where then-Governor Philippe-Henri
Dakoury-Tabley, an ally of Gbagbo's, was forced to resign in favor of an interim governor who supported President Ouattara.

Three economists interviewed by VOA Tuesday said the ramifications of Kone's appointment are yet to be seen. Little is known about the one-time construction minister in President Ouattara's cabinet, who will face massive problems upon taking office.

Ivory Coast's cash reserves have been depleted, trade all but disappeared in the course of the conflict, and the International Monetary Fund estimates that the country's economy will shrink a startling 7.5 percent this year.

But the fact of the Kone appointment alone, economists say, remains a positive sign for Ivory Coast as it tries to restore order and stability.

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