It is beyond any doubt that the introduction of the African single implied a very important step forward in the long process towards African integration, not only when seen from an economic point of view, but also politically.
Africa is highly diverse in culture, tradition, religion, and ways of life. Despite diversity being known as unity, Africa’s diversity has been a source of conflict for civil war. This condition has diverted the attention of governments from development to security. The single currency if properly implemented will improve trade by allowing specific countries to specialize at what they are good at, and exchange it for other goods that other countries in the alliance produce more efficiently. If implemented, countries across the region will be able to move and spend money across different countries without worrying about exchange rate costs. We will be able to see some of the most important effects of the African single currency, such as full price transparency across national borders, increased competition to the benefit of consumers, and the disappearance of the costs and inconvenience involved in changing money when traveling between African countries.
Furthermore, Africa could be quite suitable for a common currency if one looks at the nature of supply shocks that the region faces. The African economy, comprising 54 economies, in 2021 is projected around US$2.7 trillion in nominal terms, according to Africa the Statistics Times. Africa’s growth has been shaped by commodity prices, the continent has a third of the planet’s mineral resources, 10% of the world’s oil reserves, and produces nearly 70% of the global diamond trade. While this has clearly been good for growth in the past, the dependency on a few key commodities, and hence the global price has led to high levels of market uncertainty, especially around many of Africa’s currencies. Africa will remain an important producer of oil and natural gas, accounting for 10% of global oil and 9% of natural gas production in 2035. The single currency will help to address the region’s monetary problems like the difficulty in converting some of its currencies. In this respect, a single currency is essential in order for consumers and investors to reap the full benefits of the Single Market for goods in services. To my mind, the African single currency will contribute positively to the necessary structural development process in the African countries.
It is important to note that trade within Africa will significantly increase intra-African trade; trade between one country and another; and trade between one region and another. These developments will indeed have important implications for the competitiveness and growth prospects of the African market. The African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement is the first step to realizing the single currency. The implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) was viewed as the catalyst for long-term continental prosperity and integration. The adoption of a single currency shows that majority of the participants are highly knowledgeable on the role of integrating a single currency in Africa for economic development that includes, enhancing currency stability, reduction of financial risks, reduction of transaction cost, reduction of exchange rate fluctuation, enhancing price transparency and reduction of inflation that impact on trade within the region.
The ongoing process of reshaping the African economy from a group of small segmented national markets into an Africa-wide market is leading to greater efficiency and will bring important welfare gains for consumers and investors. The single currency is a massive centralization of decisions at the Africa Union level and a significant concentration of powers in the hands of a small group of individuals, which may endanger one of the fundamental principles of the AU, the individual liberty. Having a single currency, a monetary policy, and interest rates decided by someone else might seem a good idea but at some point, politicians would like to have that power back in order to govern a developing country. It is very unfortunate that public attention is so narrowly focused on short-term developments. The public debate tends to neglect the long-term structural processes in all areas and especially in the financial markets.
The reduced barriers to cross-border trade and investment are likely to encourage more and more small and medium-sized companies which have traditionally been active only in the domestic market to enter the markets of the neighboring countries. These microeconomic factors are likely to contribute to improved competition and resource allocation within the African market. We need to trade among ourselves. So, the point is that we need a single currency. Movements of capital and goods go together. The importance of a single currency is highlighted in the African Union decision’s to consider it for the entire continent. This is because a single currency will aid the realization of the objectives of AfCFTA. There is a need to put into place a mechanism of implementing the single currency integration in a gradual manner.
To that end, it requires plenty of energy, patience, and political leadership. It goes hand in hand with various doubts, disagreements, and setbacks. However, the objectives of the integration, the improvement of competitiveness and greater prosperity in Africa, as well as joint control over the domination of market forces in a world that is increasingly sensitive, are so important that efforts to foster this project should be intensified. As a longer-term vision, one should see African integration as a step towards better global cooperation and securing peaceful and balanced development. The foundations for achieving continental monetary policy harmonization led to a single currency and the smooth implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
– by Josef Kefas Sheehama