A meeting convened by the Ministry of Finance in Paris, last week issued a general appeal to the governments of Central and West Africa to support the priorities of French presidency of the G20 meeting in Cannes in early November. The meeting – which fits into a scenario of EU crisis caused by the growing public debt and a threat of collapse for the euro - was attended by ministers and central bank governors of the CFA franc zone, anchored to the colonial currency of the Euro and in use in 15 African countries. “The point is not to evaluate the merits of decisions taken at this meeting but to denounce, 50 years after African independence, the persistence of a monetary system, the CFA franc, which binds 15 countries of the continent to the former colonial power of France. Eight nations from the West Africa Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), six from the Economic Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) while the Comoros are not ‘sovereign countries’ as far as monetary policy and budget management”, said Thomas Borrell, the national secretary of the association ‘Survie’ which denounces the binding mechanisms and often illegal network of relationships between France and its former colonies, a system known by the term ‘Françafrique’.
The last few weeks have caused some controversy over revelations that lawyer Robert Bourg, who confirmed the suspected payment of bribes by some African political personalities of the French political scene, including the current president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and the ‘existence of tax havens on the continent. But on the financial side the ‘Françafrique’ is not limited to these two aspects, including institutional mechanisms that have never been called into question in over 50 years.
First of the tools through which Paris maintains direct control over the finances of the former colonies is an obligation for the 15 countries of the CFA franc to deposit half of their reserves in foreign currency to an account of the French Treasury. “Materially those funds are frozen under the pretext that serve to ensure the stability of the franc CFA. They are resources that the African countries, however, cannot provide for itself “, says Borrell.
Second, the statutes of the Central Bank of West Africa (BCEAO), those of the countries of Central Africa (Bceac) and the Comoros (BCC) state that any important decision, particularly those concerning equality CFA franc / Euro, must be taken by an absolute majority of the board of directors. “But French administrators sit in the councils that represent the direct interests of Paris and, in fact, have a right of veto that allows them to block any measure in question that does not conform to the priorities of the French monetary system” said the interlocutor to MISNA, adding that “in a nutshell this means that the monetary policies of some 15 African nations are outlined according to the interests of the former colonizer.” In effect one can speak of “forced marriage” in which the weaker party, the Africans, “have not the slightest possibility of emancipation.”
Several African economists, including the Togolese Nubukpo Kako, stressed the paradox that comes from belonging to the CFA franc: the economies of some of the poorest countries in the world are tied to a currency, the euro, which is one of the strongest. “Concretely, it means that exports of raw materials, primary resource for Africa, are less competitive since the prices are expressed in hard currency (euros), while imports of food, which the continent is very dependent, are more expensive, “says the national secretary of ‘Survie’.
The financial system of the 15 CFA franc zone countries depends on economic and monetary fluctuations in the euro area, a market that is very far from Africa as far as features and organization. “The financial system of the CFA does nothing but aggravate the already negative consequences of the euro currency crisis and the slowdown of European economies on millions of Africans – still says Borrell – as a result, in this period, African economies are also losers in trade with countries using the dollar and yuan currency unit with which the CFA franc notes a floating exchange rate. ”
Already in 1994, when the government of Prime Minister Edouard Balladur of France unilaterally decided to devalue the Franc, the African economies suffered heavy setbacks lasted several years. “Now we’ll see what measures could be adopted in Paris, of course, always in the name of so-called good government of the monetary institutions and political stability of African countries led by despots who have the support of France,” insists the French activist.
Yet recent revelations of Bourg and confidential documents released by ‘Wilikeaks’ have confirmed that some African presidents have taken funds from the same Bceac, some of which were then diverted to French political parties, especially on the right but also on the left.
A monetary, economic and political protection, from which for obvious reasons in the past few decades, African leaders have sought to emancipate themselves. “The first president of Togo Independent, Sylvanus Olympio, he wanted out of the CFA Franc. Unfortunately he was assassinated and replaced by Gnassingbe Eyadema, who remained firmly in power for 38 years – concludes Borrell – Recently, in the midst of the post-election crisis of including Mamadou Koulibaly, has raised the possibility to create an Ivorian Franc. The rest of the story is known to all. ”
© 2011 MISNA - Missionary International Service News Agency Srl