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ECOWAS Gets Efficient Payment Structures   
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Member country of the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) will soon have wholesale and retail payment infrastructures for their national needs and also for harmonisation within the zone.

Millison Narh, Deputy Governor of Bank of Ghana, who made this known, was delivering an address at the 1st Swift West Africa Monetary Zone (WAMZ) Business Forum on Tuesday in Accra. According to him, the structures included real time gross settlement systems, cheques and paper credit clearing systems, payment card systems and electronic credit as well as debit clearing systems.

It is in line with this that he advised member countries to keep abreast of international payment trends and monitor developments in the emerging payments area. The forum, themed: “West Africa Monetary Zone – Clearing the path to regionalisation”, was to enable payment system stakeholders and experts in the WAMZ to interact with their counterparts from SWIFT. It was also to deliberate on the choice of market infrastructure and integration options for payment systems development within WAMZ.

Mr Narh pointed out that recent unfavourable developments in the international financial system especially in the Eurozone have raised some confidence issues with regard to proper governance, functioning and stability of economic unions, hence the structures. “Regional economic integration is the key to expanding regional trade, increasing the rate of economic growth and reducing poverty in our sub-region.

“The focus on payment systems to drive the regionalisation process is well founded given the multifaceted role payment systems play in the modern market economy.” The West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) is one of the strategic groupings aimed at fast tracking regionalisation in West Africa. Efforts at regional economic integration among the independent states of West Africa began with the signing of the Treaty of Lagos in 1975.

The Treaty brought into being the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) with its primary objective of promoting trade and cooperation among the States of West Africa and with a vision to create an economic union over time along the lines of the European Union.

But the slow progress of economic integration within ECOWAS after 1975 has been a major concern to ECOWAS leaders. This is evident in the several factors militating against rapid economic integration of West Africa, some of which have been identified as colonial legacies like different national languages, currencies and legal/social systems.

The determination to speed up regional integration led eventually to the Lome decision of 1999 with the decision giving way to any two or more member ECOWAS states to form an economic grouping to fast track the ECOWAS objectives of greater cooperation and economic integration.

Michimaru Onizuka of Payments Market Infrastructures, EMEA, making a presentation titled: “SWIFT in the payments landscape,” said the popularity of smartphones and tablets was growing; adding that online banking was becoming the preferred way of accessing money while also consumer demand for information and services via the mobile channel was rising very fast.

He said SWIFT had vast experience in the financial sector and has proven to be a reliable and dependable provider of payment solutions for payment and securities market infrastructures and their integration as well as the transfer of funds within and across national borders.

ECOWAS leaders believe that the establishment of WAMZ would lead quickly to the creation of a second monetary zone of mostly English-speaking countries similar to the French-speaking states economic union - L’Union Monetaire de l’Ouest Africaine (UMOA). Some of its objectives will include the attainment of macroeconomic convergence, trade and regional integration, financial integration, payment systems infrastructure development and institutional capacity building.

Source: Samuel Boadi

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