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CFA franc hits 2.4 Naira: Opportunities and risks unfold for WAEMU investors

Tuesday, 20 February 2024 15:07
CFA franc hits 2.4 Naira: Opportunities and risks unfold for WAEMU investors

(Ecofin Agency) - The WAEMU currency has achieved an unprecedented peak against the Nigerian currency-naira, reaching 2.45 naira per franc as of January 15, 2024. This information, reported by the Central Bank of Nigeria, presents a unique set of opportunities for WAEMU investors who are eyeing financial products, bolstered by the enhanced purchasing power that a robust CFA franc offers.

However, making effective investment decisions requires a comprehensive examination of the risks and opportunities involved. The present strength of the CFA franc, which is shared by WAEMU and the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), is attributed in part to the fixed exchange rate guarantee with the euro provided by France. In contrast, the Nigerian Central Bank has faced challenges in curbing the naira's depreciation, which has seen a decline of nearly 194% of its official value against the dollar since June 2023.

This disparity in monetary competitiveness could open up appealing prospects for CFA franc zone investors, particularly those within WAEMU, keen on exploring the largest financial market in West Africa. The Nigeria Stock Exchange in Lagos has, since the start of 2024, yielded a 47% return to its investors, compared to a 1.9% loss for the BRVM, which is the stock exchange for the WAEMU region.

Despite these attractive opportunities, investors should adopt a cautious approach. The current valuation of the CFA largely results from speculation on stable resources, and the intrinsic value of the naira should not be overlooked. With its $33.7 billion in foreign exchange reserves at the end of December 2023, Nigeria boasted over 7.3 months of import coverage by the end of 2022. For comparison, WAEMU had reserves amounting to $9.7 billion during the same period, which were on a decline and only represented about 3.4 months of imports. This situation suggests that the CFA's relative strength could swiftly change.

Also, the high volatility of the Nigerian currency and the authorities' struggle to stabilize a structurally fragile naira limit any medium-term financial visibility. In Nigeria, an average of 11.4 years is currently needed to recoup an investment, against 9.8 years in WAEMU. Strict foreign exchange regulations also hinder the transfer of capital and dividends abroad. Faced with short-term opportunities and the risk of capital lockdown, investors from the CFA franc zone need to proceed with careful consideration.

Thus, despite a historic exchange rate differential that makes Nigeria more attractive, WAEMU investors in particular should approach any initiative to invest in financial products there with a degree of circumspection. Opportunities should be seized in the light of Nigeria's inherent risks, but also with a clear appreciation of the high value of the CFA franc.



Public Management

ECOFIN AGENCY offers a selection of articles translated from AGENCE ECOFIN. Founded in 2011, Agence Ecofin is a leader in Francophone Pan-African economic news, particularly in West and Central Africa. The agency publishes daily news on nine African economic sectors: Public Management, Finance, ICT, Agribusiness, Energy, Mining, Transport & Logistics, Communication, and Training.

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