West Africa Inches Towards Regional Common Market

West Africa Inches Towards Regional Common Market

From Yahoo! News

Leaders of the 15-nation west African bloc ECOWAS met for a special summit in Senegal focused on moving the region towards a common market and a single currency by 2020.

While the economy was expected to top the agenda, the Economic Community of West African States conference in the capital Dakar opened with heads of state giving speeches on political tensions in Mali and Guinea-Bissau.

Senegal President Macky Sall welcomed his recently-elected Malian counterpart Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and urged the gathered heads of state to “continue efforts to maintain peace and security in the region”.

The regional bloc is expected to consider contributing more troops to the UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA) following a surge in Islamist attacks.

MINUSMA is meant to eventually reach 12,640 troops and police. At the end of July it had just over 6,000, but Nigerian and some Chadian troops have since withdrawn.

France sent troops to Mali in January to halt an advance on the capital Bamako by Al-Qaeda linked Islamist groups and allied Tuareg rebels. It plans to reduce its presence from 3,000 soldiers today to 1,000 by the end of January 2014.

Ivorian leader Alassane Ouattara told the summit that the fight against terrorism in the vast Sahel region abutting the southern Sahara desert was not over, calling on west African nations to “remain at the side of the Malian people.”

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