From the Arab Maghreb Union in the north to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) at the other end of the continent, the African Union recognises eight regional economic communities. UEMOA, of which Côte d’Ivoire is a founding member, is one of the continent’s more institutionally integrated unions, with member states sharing a common currency, central bank and stock exchange.
Established by treaty in 1994, the other six founding states are Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo. In 1997 this francophone group was joined by Guinea-Bissau, the official language of which is Portuguese. All of UEMOA’s member states are also members of ECOWAS – which also includes Ghana and Nigeria, among others – and pursues a wider agenda, including peacekeeping activities.
UEMOA’s policy objectives are established by its Conference of Heads of State and Government, which meets at least once a year. Its stated ambitions include engendering greater economic competitiveness through open markets, the convergence of macroeconomic policies, the creation of a common market, coordination of sectoral policies and harmonisation of fiscal policies. Côte d’Ivoire has held the Conference’s presidency since January 2016.
The Council of Ministers is composed of two ministers from each member state, and meets at least twice a year to ensure the implementation of the policies defined by the Conference. The next organisational tier, the Commission, is the union’s executive organ, and is composed of eight commissioners drawn from the member states who are responsible for liaising with the government and authorities in each jurisdiction, with the primary function of furthering the integration process.
The legal infrastructure of UEMOA comprises the Court of Justice, based in Burkina Faso, which is tasked with ensuring the uniform interpretation of shared laws and obligations, and the Court of Auditors, charged with monitoring the accounts of the union and ensuring the accuracy of budgetary data. These key components are supported by a number of other bodies: the Interparliamentary Committee plays an advisory role in debates on integration; the Regional Council Chamber is responsible for the effective involvement of the private sector in the integration process; the Council of Labour and Social Dialogue performs a similar function on behalf of non-state actors such as workers representatives; and the Council of Territorial Collectives acts as an interface between the union and local authorities.
With the eurozone, the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union and the Central African Economic and Monetary Community, UEMOA is one of only four currency unions in the world.
Members of the bloc use the West African CFA franc, which is issued by the Central Bank of West African States. The currency is pegged to the euro at a rate of CFA655.957:€1. This arrangement is a central topic of debate within UEMOA. Supporters of the peg argue that it has improved the macroeconomic stability of members, and point to the currency depreciation endured by countries such as Nigeria and South Africa in the wake of the 2009 global financial crisis as a possible consequence of a floating currency. The opposing view is that the inability of UEMOA member states to use monetary policy to influence their currency represents a challenge to competitiveness (see Economy chapter).
The signatories of the UEMOA treaty have also established a Customs union and a common external tariff. Macroeconomic convergence criteria have been established and regional, structural and sectoral policies initiated. UEMOA also cooperated with ECOWAS to develop a common plan of action on economic liberalisation and policy convergence, with ECOWAS agreeing to adopt UEMOA’s Customs declaration forms and compensation mechanisms.