The CFA-zone is basically composed of two sub-zones, characterised by significant structural economic and political differences within and between its member countries: the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU/UEMOA) and the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (EMCCA/CEMAC). The growing structural divergences between UEMOA and CEMAC have been intensified by the recent development of world oil markets, booming production in Equatorial Guinea and the arrival of Chad in the club of oil producers. Nevertheless the CFA-zone in general, and the UEMOA in particular, have been considered as model case for economic and monetary integration in Africa. Yet, neither of these sub-zones meets the classical criteria of the Optimum Currency Area (OCA). In contrast, they show a low degree of diversification of production and exports, low factor mobility (except of labour in some countries) and price and wage flexibility, different levels of infrastructure and of inflation, low intra-regional trade and a strong exposure to asymmetrical external shocks (e.g. violent political conflicts, different terms of trade development for oil- and agricultural exports). The rules of the informal sector, which are more important in structuring the CFA-zone than the institutions and policies of the formal economic sector, including its monetary institutions. For decades, prices of French imports were overpriced, due to protection by tied aid and other political and cultural non-tariff barriers. The cost of this rent-seeking was carried not only by the French Treasury, who guarantees the peg, but by the French and EU-taxpayers, who financed budgetary bail-outs and development aid, and finally by the poorer member countries and social strata (cf. the free-rider thesis). This article analyses the aims and structures of the WEAMU and its future development prospects.
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