“ECOWAS has said 2020 and we are working towards 2020. It is all part of the economic development and growth objective of each and every of our economies.”
Isaac Anumihe, Abuja
The West African Monetary Institute (WAMI/Institute) was set up in Accra, Ghana, in January 2001 and began operations in March 2001. The institute is to undertake technical preparations for the establishment of a common West African Central Bank and the launching of a single currency for the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ/Zone).
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To minimise the effects of asymmetric shocks, a monetary union requires member countries to converge to certain quantitative and qualitative benchmarks.
Aside the monitoring of quantitative convergence criterion, the mandate of the institute has been expanded over the years to include taking measures that will facilitate trade integration, financial sector integration, payments system development and statistical harmonisation.
In pursuant to this mandate, the institute currently conducts bi-annual onsite and monthly offsite multilateral surveillance missions to monitor member states’ compliance with both the quantitative and qualitative benchmarks.
Currently, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is made up of 15 countries with both cultural and geopolitical ties and shared common economic interests. However, the greatest challenge of this institute is funding which, to a large extent, has affected its performance.
In this interview, the Director General of the institute, Dr. Ngozi Egbuna, attested to this lack of funding when she said the poor member states had given them the authorisation to seek for grant from international donors on their behalf.
Egbuna was honoured recently as a fellow, Nigerian Statistical Association (NSA). She also spoke on this and other issues in this interview.
The objectives are that we are to set up the second monetary zone for West Africa. WAMI is made up of six countries including the Anglophone West African countries plus Guinea. Six countries make up WAMI. It was set up to start a second monetary zone for West Africa given that we have the French-speaking West Africans who have the UEMOA (UEMOA is the French acronym for West African Monetary and Economic Union). So, the objective is economic and monetary integration of West Africa.
That is why I said that it is the second one because the first one is already integrated, which is the UEMOA countries. We are not integrated. So, we are to fast-track it. The forefathers of WAMI decided to set up a second monetary zone, which is our own – West African Monetary – the English-speaking West Africa plus Guinea to make it easier instead of all of us going one-by-one to set up a monetary zone with the one that is already established.
However, in 2014, ECOWAS said we should all have a single monetary zone. And so, that is why we have gone back to ECOWAS agenda.
We are working towards a monetary zone. We are working towards a single monetary zone and it is not until you have a currency that you will say you have a monetary zone. When you are integrated with people, when you trade and you move freely within the sub-region, we are already integrated. And don’t forget that our economies are heavy in the informal sector and most of the players in the informal sector move around seamlessly. The informal sector in our zone is already integrated. It is the formal sector that is waiting. Trading is going on. From Lagos to Senegal, you can trade in naira or any of the other currencies you wish to. That is integration enough. Until we come out with a single currency….. But even at that it is not something you have to rush. It is something you work with based on micro-economic fundamentals.
ECOWAS has said 2020 and we are working towards 2020.
It is all part of the economic development and growth objective of each and every of our economies. So, it is adding up.
That is why I said that we have not really valued statistics. It is difficult to get statistics of each and everyone of our countries. But we are getting better with the aid of foreign donors and all that; we are getting better at producing statistics especially the one we use for economic development. So, we are getting there.
I have never found myself talking about challenges because I am among men. I have never felt that I am different from them. I have never seen it as a challenge at all.
On the challenges of WAMI,I think it is a combination of funding that is not adequate to carry out our projects. And the lack of funding leads us to the fact that we cannot explain what we do to the masses easily through sensitisation. And so sensitisation is an issue because of funding and funding is an issue because of sensitisation. That is what I have to say.
Encouraging member states to contribute to the project
We don’t need to sensitise them. We are founded by the central banks of our member states and there is a sharing formula and they have never failed in funding us. All the member states pay up at the beginning of every year through the subvention. They have never failed. However, when we need funding for bigger projects, it becomes an issue because most of them do not have enough to even deal with their domestic affairs not to talk of giving out. That is part of the problem. But they give us permission to source funds and we have sourced funds from donors; the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the African Development Bank (ADB) are major donors. Recently, we started working on Afrexim Bank. We don’t borrow to pay back. It is usually grant.
We have never had that situation. So, we have never had anything like that.
Deserving the honour
I have served the organisation in different capacities. This is the crowning glory and I thank God for it.
Advice for people looking up to you
Hard work. But before hard work, you have to put everything to God for him to give you a sense of direction. But to say that hard work pays is not an understatement.
Did you anticipate this honour?
When we were working as council and even as ordinary floor members, we were just doing it because we wanted the best for the association and it is very gratifying to see how the association has grown and to see that all the members are working hard to make the association a flagship association for statistics in the sub-region.
Unpopularity of the association
Statisticians are like the photographers in the dark room. They don’t make noise but they are very useful. And so you heard when we were singing our anthem that we work with tools and we advise from the back and when we are told to come forward we always come out. After every conference we have a communiqué we issue telling the people what we have done. We don’t make noise. We are not a charity organisation. We are a professional body.
The challenge of statistics is lack of funding but beyond lack of funding is the fact that people have apathy towards statistics whether it is the respondent or the people who use statistics. They don’t interrogate statistics enough. Besides, data is an expensive venture. And since data doesn’t talk, most people don’t value it. They think it is a waste of time collecting data or it is a waste of time participating in survey of giving answers to statistics. But they don’t know that it is core when it comes to planning. It is core when it comes to projecting yourself forward. You need to know statistics and quote statistics to be able to evaluate yourself at all times. So, statistics is very important. Funding is key. Like in any society, especially in a developing economy, we don’t value statistics that much.
The Federal Government, of course, should fund statistics. The Federal Government uses statistics for planning. It uses statistics to measure the economy. And so they should fund statistics at all times.
Percentage of revenue to be used to fund statistics
No! no!! no!!! We can’t go to that number now. I don’t even have any number in my head right now.