West Africa Must Integrate Financial Markets

West Africa MapWest Africa needs to accelerate efforts at integrating it financial markets to promote access to capital in the sub-region, the Director, African Department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Antoinette Sayeh has said.

“The political will of West African governments would go a long way in achieving the financial integration agenda. This is what we expect governments in the sub-region to do,’’ she said.

Speaking at a news conference in Accra on Monday at the end of the IMF Regional Conference in Ghana, Ms Sayeh said the expansion of banks across the West African Region had necessitated the need for the sub-region to develop common banking rules and regulations to integrate its financial markets.

“Banking giants like Ecobank, Stanbic Bank, Zenith Bank among others have branches across the African Region,” she said
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for the past decade has been working on a single currency for the West African states to promote trade in the sub-region.

The conference attended by governors, ministers of finance as well as some top corporate executives was on the theme: “Opportunities and challenges of financial integration in West Africa.’’

Ms. Sayeh said financial integration would make it easy for the people and organisations in the sub-region to access capital and also reduce the cost of credit.

“Financial integration comes with risk and managers of the various economies in the sub-region must come out with strategies and policies to manage those risks,’’ the Director, African Department of IMF advised.

She stressed the need for information sharing on financial issues among the ECOWAS member states to address what she described as ‘’contagious risk,’’ which the director said might affect the West Africa integration process if not given attention.

Ms. Sayeh pledged IMF’s commitment to support the sub-region to achieve its finanancial integration agenda, saying that already the fund was supporting the West Africa Monetary Zone with technical support.

Asked if the IMF was ready to assist Ghana financially, Ms. Sayeh responded that her outfit had not received a request yet, saying ‘’if Ghana approach IMF for support, we will do so.’’

Touching on the performance of the Ghanaian economy, Ms. Sayeh called for policies to further consolidate the growth prospects of the country.

“Ghana’s growth rate should be translated into improving people’s lives,’’ she stated, adding that “the government should pursue reforms that will make the progress more evident”.

The Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Dr Henry Wampah said the West African countries were working seriously to promote financial integration and common banking rules were being developed.

Dr. Wampah commended the IMF for its support to the West African Monetary Union. He said IMF provided technical support to the union between 2001 and 2005, when it initiated moves for harmonisations of its markets.

Earlier asked whether the country was achieving its growth target, the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr. Seth Terkper replied in the affirmative, saying the “medium term  prospect  is positive”.

He however, admitted that the growth target had been dampened by the energy, the rise in the wage bill and the dip in the gold and the cocoa prices on the international market. By Kingsley Asare

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