How France continues to dominate its colonies via the currency system

Fascinating piece on The Minskys Blog:

French geopolitics in Africa is interested in natural resources. Initially, the franc zone was set as a colonial monetary system by issuing currency in the colonies because France wanted to avoid transporting cash. After these countries gained their independence, the monetary system continued its operation and went on to include two other countries that were not former French colonies. At present, the CFA franc zones are made up of 14 countries. The fact that even today the currency of these regions is pegged to the euro (formerly French franc) and that reserves are deposited in France shows the subtle neocolonialism France has been pursuing unchecked. It is a currency union where France is the center and has veto power. This is supported by African governing elites who rely on the economic, political, technical, and sometimes military support provided by France. It is no wonder then that these former colonies are not growing to their full potential because they have exchanged development through sovereignty for dependency on France. This article investigates the set up of the CFA franc zones, its ties to French neocolonialism and its ability to further breed dependency in the former colonies of West and Central Africa.

Why French continue to dominate compared to say British?

It has been decades since African countries gained independence. However, this independence was replaced by a dominance-dependence relationship known as post-colonialism. A dominance-dependence occurs “when one country is able to participate in a definitive or determining way in the decision-making process of another country while the second country is unable to have the same participation in the decision-making of the first country.” Furthermore, the foreign and domestic policies of the independent African nations continue to be influenced by outside powers, especially their former colonizers. The post-colonial relationship when it came to former French colonies is the dominant role held by France.

French colonialism was one of state colonialism. It was one of direct rule where native chiefs assisted French administrators, which led to the rise of local elites who were educated in the French system. The former colonies were indoctrinated with French culture, language, and law. In the time of independence, sub-Saharan colonies decolonized in a non-violent way while former British colonies gained their independence through war, a violent way that loosened the relationship towards Great Britain. Because freedom from France was carried out through non-violence, it came naturally for local elites to take power and continue their strong ties with France.

Through the CFA franc zone, France is able to control the money supply, monetary and financial regulations, banking activities, credit allocation, and budgetary and economic policies of these nations. In addition, it breeds corruption and illegal diversion of public aid between France and its former colonies. For instance, conditional French public aid has forced these African states to spend the ‘aid’ money on French equipment, goods or contracts with French firms, especially construction and public work firms.

S.K.B. Asante points out that regional integration approaches do not remove the neocolonialism and dependency the African continent faces. He states, “none of the regional schemes have adequate provisions for attacking the all-embracing issue of dependency reduction nor have the efforts made towards this objective had any significant impact…the problem of dependency poses difficulties for African countries attempting a strategy of regional integration. Dependency serves as an obstacle to de-development it not only limits the beneficial effects of integration in both national and regional economy.”

It is all France’s gain:

In conclusion, the CFA franc zones continue to be dominated by the political will, economic interest, and geopolitical strategy pursued by the French republic. It seems some elite leaders do not wean away from France’s influence. President Omar Bongo of Gabor said, “France without Gabon is like a car without petrol, Gabon without France is analogous to a car without a driver.” The previous quote can be applied to almost all of the franc zone nations. The set up of the currency unions benefits France more than its members. French colonialism is preventing the development of these nations and causing them to be dependent.

One major beneficiary is of course the French football team…

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