Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has assumed the leadership of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), promising to consolidate peace and security, and calling on member states to work even harder to defeat terrorism.
President Sirleaf takes over from Senegalese President Macky Sall. Her election took place at the ECOWAS summit held over the weekend in the Senegalese capital, Dakar.
Goals: More trade, financial stability
A press release issued by the office of the president said Sirleaf called for the conclusion of negotiations and legal actions to enhance trade integration in West Africa.
The new ECOWAS chairperson promised she will work to improve financial stability.
Ousmane Sene is director of the West Africa Research Center based in Dakar. He said achieving monetary integration will be an important step toward regional integration.
“ECOWAS moving from here, I guess, it will be consolidating the sub-regional organization. They are already talking about monetary integration. You will no longer be having naira in Nigeria, CFA in Senegal, but it will be one currency and which is extremely important because this will be going toward consolidating economic relations within the community,” he said.
Sene said ECOWAS leaders are talking about achieving a single monetary unit for the region as early as 2020.
“Just think about the number of countries where you already have the CFA currency circulating because the CFA is composed of eight countries who are at the same time members of ECOWAS. You can easily imagine that in Ghana they will be willing to put the cedi aside, in Nigeria they willing to put the naira aside and decided to get one currency which is going to float everywhere,” Sene said.
Sene said ECOWAS economic integration would mean a further step toward empowering the people of the region and Africa in general because of wider markets, larger populations and plenty of economic opportunities.
Sene said trade integration in West Africa has been made difficult by the lack of will of individual member state governments.
“A case in point, you have the problem between Gambia and Senegal. The border being closed not by the state, but the border being blocked by truck drivers why, because in the Gambia they decided to raise drastically what it costs to go through the border to Gambia. So, this is obviously the problem. The free movement of goods and the free movement of populations sometimes is hampered by the constraints and difficulties which customer officers or policemen in charge of frontiers have created."
President Sirleaf also called on ECOWAS member states to work even harder to beat terrorism, strengthen intelligence capacity and enhance coordination with the African Union, the United Nations and other partner institutions.
She said Boko Haram must be "totally defeated."
Sene said ECOWAS member states are considering the idea of integrating forces to intervene in member countries when necessary.
“Instead of having Senegal sending troops to Mali in order to defend against terrorism, we will be thinking about having the ECOWAS forces composed of Senegalese soldiers, Nigerian soldiers, Ghanaian soldiers, Gambian soldiers, etc. in one, unified army which will be able to intervene any time; and it will be much stronger. They will have more weaponry; they will have more equipment; they will be better trained, and they will be able to intervene wherever it is necessary,” Sene said.