Senegal Opposition Leader Urges West African Currency Reform

(Bloomberg) -- Senegal’s main opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko, will seek a reform of the regional CFA currency if his coalition wins elections later this month.

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Creating a new currency, outside the West African monetary union of eight countries that all use the same currency — of which Senegal is a member — has been a longterm goal for Sonko’s political grouping.

In his first appearance following his July arrest, the influential opposition leader, said his coalition would look at how to improve the West African franc.

The West African market “has enormous potential,” Sonko told reporters in the capital, Dakar, on Friday. “It’s only if we don’t manage to reform the CFA, that we’ll look at having our own currency.”

Earlier: Senegal Frees Key Opposition Leaders Before Presidential Vote

Sonko, 49, known for his pan-Africanist discourses, was disqualified from the presidential elections after being convicted of libel for insulting a government minister. He’s backing his deputy, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, on the ballot in the March 24 vote. He’s running against Amadou Ba, the former prime minister who is President Macky Sall’s preferred successor.

“We can’t have sovereignty without monetary sovereignty,” Faye said on Friday.

Both Sonko and Faye were released from prison on Thursday, bolstering the anti-establishment campaign before the vote.

If the election proceeds as scheduled, it’s likely to go to a second round of voting, said Mucahid Durmaz, senior Africa analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, a political risk consulting firm.

“Sonko will definitely fuel Faye’s campaign,” Durmaz said. “There will certainly be a second round likely with Ba and Faye, but I don’t see a clear winner. As alliances are formed ahead of the second round, the vote could go both ways.”

Sonko and Faye were released after lawmakers approved amnesty for crimes linked to political protests between 2021 and 2024. The release is intended to defuse political tensions that have ratcheted up since Sall last month postponed the vote that was originally scheduled for Feb. 25.

Sparring by the government, the opposition and the Constitutional Council over the election date has scarred Senegal’s reputation as one of Africa’s most stable democracies and weighed on investor sentiment. Its bonds have been among the worst emerging-market performers this year.

The yield on Senegal’s dollar bonds due in 2033 rose for a fifth consecutive day earlier on Friday to 8.97% by 9:18 a.m. in London, while the rate on its 2037 instruments climbed 2 basis points to 9.22%.

(Recasts with comment from Sonko, from first paragraph.)

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