President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has said the West Africa sub-region has done much over the years to sustain monetary and economic growth, while each country has risen above its recent economic challenges to give their best to the goals of regional integration.
She recalled Nigeria’s oil price shock, Gambia’s political turmoil, and the Ebola outbreak in the Mano River Union as factors that risked our performance at the regional level, but noted that as seen in the various reports, each country made at least a stride in one area or the other. According to an Executive Mansion release, the Liberian leader made the statement on Friday, August 4, when she officially opened the 38th Meeting of the Convergence Council of the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) statutory meetings convening in Monrovia. She said although the Zone has defined the next course of action for the region, she cautioned that the actual work goes beyond just producing these reports. “We have to continue working to sustain the gains and achieve the goals,” she stressed. President Sirleaf noted that notwithstanding the efforts by Member Countries, the challenges that confronted us in recent times still made serious adverse effects on the region’s economy, such as rising inflation, declining growth, investor apathy, among others. She said it is important to note that these meetings are taking place at a time of major developments in the global economy, especially Britain’s exit (i.e., BREXIT) from the Euro zone. “What does this mean for our regional drive towards ECOWAS VISION 2020 and the WAMZ desire for a monetary and economic cooperation? Let us think about it. The lessons from BREXIT should guide our deliberations by ensuring that we arrive at a regional-specific framework that works best for the WAMZ,” she noted. The Liberian Chief executive observed that most of our countries are still highly vulnerable to exogenous shocks given our net-importer characteristics reliance - primary commodity-export, external financing and aid dependency, all exacerbated by frequency of political and health crises and other natural disasters. This, she said explains why none of our Member Countries has been able to sustain all of the primary macroeconomic convergence criteria for three or more years consecutively.
She told delegates that the fastest way to accelerate convergence is through a shift in the economic fundamentals by addressing the structural and infrastructure constraints that confront us as countries of the WAMZ. “In my mind, we need to focus more on building resilient political and economic structures that are anchored on good governance with emphasis on zero tolerance on corruption, diversification of our economies towards where our comparative advantage lies, strengthen the independence of our central banks, strong fiscal discipline and promote more trade among ourselves with emphasis on private sector growth to drive industrialization of the WAMZ,” she noted, saying "if these are done, we will see a major implementation in convergence." President Sirleaf said the Government of Liberia remains fully committed to doing its part to mitigate these problems. She then expressed confidence that the Zone, as a team, will help Member Countries with the technical skills set to achieve enhanced economic integration across the region. “We must work together, united in our diversities. That is the spirit that we cannot and must not lose,” she underscored.