African protests over CFA Franc colonial currency..

Troubling set of developments in West Africa. Even if colonial powers have ceded control they continue to shape the destinies of their colonies via laws, institutions and of course money.

It so happened that French-Beninese national, Kemi Seba burned a 5000 CFA Franc note protesting against the colonial currency. He appealed to the African countries to issue their own name currency.

A West African activist who burned a bank note to demonstrate his hatred of the regional CFA franc has reignited a decades-old debate and prompted thousands of supporters in former French colonies to turn to social media and demand that the currency be scrapped.

The French-Beninese national, Kemi Seba, appeared in court in Senegal in connection with a video that showed him setting a bank note of 5,000 CFA francs ($9) alight. He was arrested on Aug. 25 after the Central Bank of West African States lodged a complaint for destruction of money.

Seba told the court on Tuesday his act had been symbolic. “I burnt the note to raise public awareness and not as lack of respect to anybody,” he said, before being acquitted.

 Seba says on his Facebook page that French-speaking nations in West and Central Africa should mint their own currencies to free themselves from economic bondage imposed by the former colonial ruler. The CFA franc, which is pegged to the euro and backed by reserves held in France, was established after World War II to help France import goods from its colonies.

Seba’s call for the end of the franc has sparked a rare outpouring of support from people across the region that demonstrates the reach of social media activism in West and Central Africa. More than 5,400 people from Ivory Coast to Chad liked a call for protest posted on Seba’s Facebook page late Monday, with hundreds of commenters accusing France of keeping the 14-member CFA franc zone in “economic slavery.”

More details here:

The CFA franc was created by France in the late 1940s to serve as a legal tender in its then-African colonies, and it is one of the most prominent signs of France’s continued influence over its former colonies. The CFA franc is pegged to the euro with the financial backing of the French treasury.

While some see it as a guarantee of financial stability, others attack it as a colonial relic.

Proponents argue it shields the 14 countries using it from inflation and uncertainty, pointing at neighbouring Guinea as an example of what may happen if the CFA is dropped. 

Guinea is a rare former French colony in Africa which has its own currency. But it regularly faces currency shortages and its central bank struggles to ensure its stability. However, critics, such as those leading the anti-CFA movement, say true economic development for the 14 African countries can only be achieved if they get rid of the currency.

They argue that in exchange for the guarantees provided by the French treasury, African countries channel more money to France than they receive in aid. They also argue that they have no say in deciding key monetary policies agreed to by European countries, which are members of the Eurozone.

Hmmm.

How little we know of monetary systems around the world. The obsession is always with rules, committees and what not and very little about all these social and political aspects of money..

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