«The EU can put pressure on France to put an end to monetary colonialism»

The country
Ndongo Samba Sylla and Fanny Pigeaud oppose the CFA franc in a topical book for the «anger» between Italy and France on account of African migrations
Italy began the year shouting to the four winds its disagreement with France, made explicit in the fiery verbal attacks of several members of the Italian Government against Emmanuel Macron and the French neocolonialism in Africa. The Italians, led in immigration policies by Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, accused the French of provoking African migrations to Europe by impoverishing the continent through mechanisms such as the CFA franc, a currency they labeled as colonial. A question that is under debate in intellectual circles of pan-Africanism in the diaspora and among the academics and activists of the continent jumped to the front pages of the Western media, even reaching the New York Times.


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Most Western media preferred to disprove Salvini or Luigi Di Maggio, calling them populists and demagogues. Some, however, struggled to find African experts to deepen their analysis and stumbled upon the Senegalese economist Ndongo Samba Sylla, who published a book on the subject in September last year, co-signed with French journalist Fanny Pigeaud . The invisible arm of the Françafrique: un histoire du franc CFA is, today, a must read. Both respond, alimón, to a questionnaire sent by this blog to Dakar and Paris and try to rationalize a debate that, sometimes, is based on pure emotions, dogmas or misunderstandings.

«Although the words of the Italian officials are demagogic, they have drawn the attention of the international public opinion about the unspeakable scandal of the CFA franc», both authors congratulate by email, before admitting that «of course», the CFA franc for Yes alone can not be the cause of the desperate emigration to Europe. «Above all, because migrants, or victims of contemporary globalization, also come from countries that do not belong to the CFA franc zone,» they say.


Capitalism and migration
Sylla and Pigeaud say that the unwanted migratory flows arriving in Europe today are the result of the implementation, since colonial times, of accumulation policies in the West based on the dispossession of the African continent.

«Western countries can not force African countries to liberalize trade, investment and finance and, at the same time, reject the emigration of African workers who are victims of this large-scale ultraliberalism,» they continue. «The unwanted emigration of the European Union is one of the repercussions of the destruction orchestrated in the countries of the South by the unbridled capitalist logic. The solution is not to let migrants die or repress, but to stop what the philosopher Michael Walzer calls the first form of illegal immigration: capital. »

Ndongo Samba Sylla and Fanny Pigeaud recall that, as a member of the EU, Italy has also participated in the impoverishment dynamics of the African continent. And propose alternatives …

«Emigration is one of the repercussions of the destruction orchestrated in the countries of the South by the unbridled capitalist logic»

«There is one thing that Italian officials and those of other European governments can do: press France to suppress the monetary colonialism still being suffered by 14 African countries,» they launch. «This means ending the monetary cooperation agreements between African countries and France. How can European countries do this? Simply posing the problem at the community level. Since 1999, with the birth of the euro, the two CFA francs and the Comorian franc are under the supervision of the EU and France. Since then, France has been required to inform the EU authorities before any major decision in the management of these currencies. »

The CFA franc is a currency created in 1945 for the French colonies of sub-Saharan Africa to participate in the reconstruction of the metropolis after World War II. At the time of independence, in the 1960s, the acronym CFA (French colonies in Africa) mutated the «African financial community» for the eight countries of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (Uemoa) and «Financial cooperation in Central Africa» ​​for the six countries of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC).

In the mid-seventies, the headquarters of the two central banks of both zones, BCEAO and BCAC (for its acronym in French), moved to Dakar and Yaoundé respectively and its staff was Africanized. «All this may have given the  of monetary decolonization, «the authors admit. «But, the same rules instituted during the colonial period continue to govern the operation of these coins placed under the supervision of the French Treasury.»

Sylla and Pigeaud explain the functioning of the CFA franc with four maxims: the parity is fixed with respect to the French currency (French franc and then euro); there is freedom to transfer capital and income within the free zone (which includes the 14 countries that use the CFA franc, the Comoros and France); there is a centralization of foreign exchange reserves (African central banks are obliged to deposit 50% of their foreign exchange reserves in a special account of the French Treasury called «trading account») and the French Treasury guarantees the convertibility of the CFA franc into French currency (first franc and then euro). Both authors remember that all these mechanisms go back to the colonial period and that France is represented in the organs of both central banks.


For the supporters of the CFA franc, its fixation on the euro and the low inflation of the countries that use it, in comparison with other African countries, is a guarantee of «monetary stability». According to them, it promotes foreign investment and, therefore, economic growth. However, the numbers contradict this argument: in 2016, the cumulative amount of foreign direct investment (FDI) received by Ghana was higher than that received by the eight countries of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (Uemoa) as a whole and only 3.7% of French FDI in Africa goes to the CFA franc zone.

Sylla and Pigeaud talk about other disadvantages. By linking its fate to the euro, the CFA franc implies that «the monetary policy applied to Germany applies to Niger and the Central African Republic, two of the poorest countries in the world.» They also explain that it has a negative effect on the competitiveness of African exports and loans and investments (especially to African families and companies) and that it facilitates the flight of financial flows from foreign companies and African elites to Europe. Nine of the 14 countries that use the CFA franc are classified as least developed countries (LDCs), while three of the five non-LDC countries (Gabon, Côte d’Ivoire and Congo) have a lower per capita income in 2018 that they had in the late 70’s.

«No monetary policy decision can be made without the approval of the French government,» they say, before explaining that the two CFA francs can only be converted into foreign currency through the French Treasury and that they are minted and printed at the Bank of France. , which also owns 90% of the BCEAO gold stocks. «It is not a neocolonial currency,» they admit, but they also affirm that monetary decolonization has not yet occurred in most of the former French colonies in sub-Saharan Africa.

Discussions have been held on the CFA franc since the time of African independence and in particular in the 1970s and at the time of the devaluation of the CFA franc, in 1994, a decision taken unilaterally by France and which caused a catastrophe in the economies of the countries that use it. According to Sylla and Pigeaud, the social response around the issue calmed down until around 2016, when the protest resurfaced.

Both authors point out that the official vision of the CFA franc has always been that of the ruling classes: the African heads of state, the French government and its experts, the monetary authorities, the bankers and the orthodox economists. «It consists in saying, in a simplistic way, that the CFA franc is an African currency and that the advantage of monetary stability, of fixed parity against the euro and low inflation, overcomes its disadvantages, which are never specified».

They also remind Sylla and Pigeaud that most Western media talk about the issue when a Western leader includes it in their agenda and quote the Pan-Africanist and politician Horace Campbell, who wrote: «Without the wealth of Africa, France would be a lesser power with so much influence like Austria. «» The vast majority of African intellectuals think like Professor Campbell, «rivet.