Since 1945, France has the last word on the currency used by 155 million people in 15 African countries.
Melania Trump wasn’t very inspired in her visit to Kenya in October when she crowned her explorer's outfit with a pith helmet. Possibly, the first lady of the United States did not know that this hat was the favourite of explorers in Africa, before it became a symbol of oppression. In Europe, however, we retain a more important colonial vestige that often goes unnoticed by the international media: the CFA franc*, the last colonial currency. Since 1945, France has had the last word on the currency used by 155 million people.
Following the Bretton Woods agreement, the CFA franc was established as the common currency for 14 sub-Saharan countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Togo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Chad and Central African Republic) and the Comoros Islands. First linked to the French franc, today the CFA maintains parity with the euro (1 euro equals 655 CFA francs). This gives it a stability that other neighbouring currencies do not have: its convertibility is guaranteed by the French State (not the European Union); inflation is kept at bay. In exchange, these 15 territories are obliged to deposit half of their reserves with the French Treasury.
Naturally, in Africa there are different positions on what this currency symbolizes, which is not even printed there, but in the Auvergne, in the heart of France. Its main detractors call it "monetary Nazism". They accuse African rulers of being servile; of being mere extractive elites who do not want to disassociate themselves from the metropolis in order to amass money and be able to buy flats in Paris thanks to free convertibility and the free movement of capital. Last summer ten rappers from seven countries joined together to sing in English, French, Wolof and Bambara Seven minutes against CFA. The video has been a success on the Internet. Togolese economist Kako Nubukpo believes it's time to create an African currency and leave "Dad's currency" behind. Senegalese Abdoulaye Ndiaye thinks the CFA france has promoted stability but needs a rethink to give more monetary sovereignty to African states.
Sylvanus Olympio, first president of Togo, and Modibo Keita, first president of Mali : both were overthrown and assassinated by the usual suspects for having tried to leave the CFA zone
French companies in the CFA zone can freely repatriate their money. But this convertibility does not relate to trade between the three zones of the CFA system. In other words, French investment in Africa, the repatriation of capital and the import of raw materials by France are facilitated, but inter-African trade is blocked.
In France it is a recurrent debate: every president who arrives at the Elysée is asked about the CFA. They recognise that it is a colonial vestige, but they claim that African governments want it. Emmanuel Macron has said that France will support whatever African leaders choose. Nicolas Sarkozy directly stated that it was unthinkable to end the CFA for the health of African economies and because it would trigger a catastrophe for the French Treasury. "It could lead France to the 20th rank of world economies," he said. It is an umbilical cord of about 17 billion euros in French Treasury reserves. Perhaps, as Chadian President Idriss Déby pointed out, in one of the few criticisms from a local leader, this money would be more useful in Africa.
* The first meaning of the acronym CFA, from 1945 to 1958, was "French Colonies of Africa", thus "French Community of Africa" and, from 1960, "African Financial Community" [Tlaxcala’s Note].
Only ten African countries (in pink) print themselves their banknotes. In all other countries, neocolonial outsourcing rules