Tuesday, 21 March 2017
No Black man can pretend to be a freedom fighter today, while failing to focus on what keeps Africa from advancing. And what, other than neo-colonialism, keeps Black Africa struggling and lagging behind? The majority of French ex-colonies have kept the chains that shackled them under French control and influence, both economically as well as militarily.
Weakness of French activism
In February, as African Americans celebrated Black History Month, many Black activists, in France, asked themselves why such movement has failed to emerge, in the Hexagon, ignoring that French Black history is in fact a genuine African History that should first and foremost promote the African continent and denounce neo-colonialism-rather than focus only on the USA, and its civil rights movement of the 1950-1960s.
Its no secret, that French Black organisations fighting against the different forms of injustice the diaspora suffers have, in their clear majority, never had the least intention to sincerely and concretely include in their struggle the current unfair exploitation, and spoliation of the African continent. This explains their absence in the protests and demonstrations organised by the newly arrived undocumented Africans. Their silence is also blatant when it comes to pinpoint neo-colonialism in the African continent; as if by ignorance, or maybe as in a similar desire as some other French Black people who, on the other side of the Atlantic, had, in the 1920s, decided to call themselves creole and not Black once in the USA.
Neo-colonialism and Franc CFA
If the military ties between France and its former Black African colonies are well known, and quite often debated in the mass media, things are totally different when it comes to economy. Very few know that the Franc CFA, which is the currency used in some fourteen African countries is an impediment to investment and freedom of economic choices for African countries using it.
No politician campaigning in the Elysee race in 2017 is unaware of these facts, in France. Yet, the big discourses pledging devotion to work for a world with more justice are void of any denunciation of that neo or new-colonial system put into place and elaborated by General de Gaulle in 1958.
History and economic system of the Franc CFA
The Franc CFA was created in 1945. It first stood for le Franc des Colonies Francaises d’Afrique. In other words, if the French currency at the time was the Franc Français, in the French colonies of Africa, it was the Franc CFA that people used to trade and exchange. Today, fourteen African countries still use currencies with the same initials or Abbreviations. Franc CFA, however, now refers today to two distinct African currencies: - the Cooperation Financière en Afrique; which is the currency mostly used in the former West African French colonies. – And, the Communauté Financière d’Afrique; used in the former French central African colonies.
Before France adopted the European currency in the 2001, the Franc CFA currencies used in these African countries were all directly and exclusively convertible into the French Franc; which, of course, was an impediment to free and easy trade with the rest of the world. Since the adoption of the Euro by France, and the disappearance of the Franc Francais, on the 1st of January 2002, the different Franc CFAs have also become directly and exclusively convertible in Euro.
A legacy from the Nazi regimes
Many are the economists and experts who have studied what inspired the French government after the Second World War to issue that African currency in its then colonies. According to them, it appears that it was the Nazi Germany of Adolph Hitler that had previously imposed such currency system on defeated and occupied France, between 1943 and 1945. The aim was to better control the French economy and society. After the Second World War, and the so-called liberation of France, the French government will develop the same system in its African colonies.
When most African colonies access to independence in the late fifties and sixties, the economic system of the Franc CFA, as well as the presence of the French army in these territories are preserved and maintained.
The reason for this is simple: when in 1958, the General Charles de Gaulle gives the ex-African Colonies the possibility to choose between complete independence or a partial independence -with some strong economic and military ties with France-, only Guinea Conakry opts for the first proposition. A difference clearly appears, then, between countries that have chosen complete independence and those who have decided to maintain military, economic, and even political ties with France.
The few African leaders who later tried to leave the Franc CFA zones were all, without exception, targeted and toppled off through military coups, planned and organised by France. That was precisely the case for President Modibo Keita from Mali in 1964, or again President Sylvanius Olympio, in Togo, in 1963.
A Crime that only few dare to denounce
This episode of the history of the French colonial Empire also tells us that many African countries have never accessed real independence. It also means that countries using the Franc CFA today are still partially French colonies. In such circumstances, it becomes difficult, indeed, for France to bluntly recognise colonisation as negative, or as a crime against humanity. If such thing were to happen, it is doubtless that the recognition of colonisation as a crime against humanity would, soon or later, lead to the denunciation and condemnation of the current relationship between France and its former colonies.
Today, the use of the Franc CFA by African countries implies that 50% of the benefits made every year, by each of these countries, has, since the 1960s, been stored in the French central Bank, to guarantee the stability and convertibility of the currency against the French Franc, and since 2001, against the Euro. As aforesaid, there are today three different Franc CFAs; and they are not interchangeable. In other words, Franc CFAs from Mali are not accepted in Cameroon or Congo. If someone from Mali travels to central Africa, he must change his Franc CFAs from Mali into euros that he will then have to change into the French CFA used in Cameroon or Congo.
I am not good enough at mathematics and economics; yet, I understand that with all these transactions and money conversions, there, probably, is some loss. Besides, the fact that all African Franc CFA banknotes are also printed in France, in the village of Chamalieres, is quite suspicious. Moreover, in each of the committees of the different Franc CFAs, some French nationals, appointed by the French government, have permanent seats with a veto right. It is, therefore, easy to understand that no decision can be taken without the consent and approval of Paris.
It is in that sense that this very monetary system, inspired by the Nazi German regime of 1933-1945, is seen by many African organisations as a means for France to control the economy of its former colonies and also enrich itself at the stake of these same countries.
It is also the duty of all Africans around the world to defend and support the new initiative started by the Pan Africanists in Africa, and which consists in denouncing the crime that the Franc CFA represents.
By Moustafa Traore