Long long time ago, in the 1800s to early 1900s Europeans invaded, looted, and exploited a continent called Africa, leaving the nations in pure devastation. This was known as the era of colonization. Now, imagine all of that was still happening right now. No need to imagine because it still is. Many African countries may have gained their independence however, colonialism has not died. It only transformed into a new indirect form called neo-colonialism. The contracts which legalized their independence still left them restrained/hegemonized. One day my aunt who lives in West Africa was elaborating on the corruption that occurred in Africa. She explained to me how it was through a long line of imperialization. She mentioned how people in Africa are still suffering from the effects of colonization. Then she showed me a video which elaborated on the control the French still have on Africa and from there I started doing my own research. Currently, the West African countries have a currency called the CFA Franc. It is the name of 2 currencies, the West African CFA franc and Central African CFA franc. The CFA currency was established in December 1954 and is mainly used by the French African countries. West African countries are still suffering indirectly from a neo-colonial era due to the French government. This creates a challenge because West African countries are suffering from long-term effects of colonization and continue to be taken advantage of by the French. The French government must give West African countries a new currency and reparations so they can be given the financial independence they deserve and lower the negative effects of poverty.

The French government should give reparations and a new currency to West African countries because they found a way to make West African colonies depend on them even after decolonization. According to Amanda Lichtenstein, a writer/editor, and Nwachukwu Egbunike, an author and lecturer, wrote in an article, 8 West African countries rename currency in historic break from France — but colonial-era debts persist, “African leaders who refuse are killed or victim of a coup. Those who obey are supported and rewarded by France with a lavish lifestyle while their people endure extreme poverty and desperation,” Koutonin wrote. “Many African leaders are corrupt, others live in poverty because of this silent agreement. When the French colonies in West Africa gained independence, France found a way to make West Africa indebted to them which is why we must seek reparations. Many West African countries, especially Guinea and Algeria, suffered from devastating outcomes of imperialization. The French aimed to make West African countries spoiled without their help. Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Africana Studies, believes they intentionally set off to fragment West Africa to destabilize it. He stated in an article called French in West Africa, “-perhaps in hopes of gaining an upper hand in the approaching post-colonial period -the territories of French West Africa had achieved independence.” Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar believed,” French interest in their former territory in west Africa continues to this day.” The French devised a plan to make West African countries depend on them even after giving them independence. The fragmentation led to corruption which in exchange allowed the French to support the lavish lifestyles of the people who support them and take advantage of the poor. The negative effects must be compensated for through a new currency and reparations.

West African ex-colonies are still suffering long-term baneful effects at the hands of French greed. Many people believed that the currency reform did not soothe the West African countries that were colonized by the French. Due to the imperialization, many nations are still, unfortunately, indebted to France. The CFA has been viewed as a neo-colonial tax that insults West Africa’s authority and slows down/ decreases economic growth. People see it as the 14 countries’ economies held hostage. Amanda Lichtenstein and Nwachukwu Egbunike stated, “Those who defend this “deposit system” argue that it has offered financial stability to these nations since independence. But critics see this enforced debt as part of a harsh legacy of dependence on France.” West Africa remains indebted to France since they acquired independence in the 1960s due to the colonial pact established to gain independence. Within that colonial pact, West African colonies had to change their currency. Amanda Lichtenstein and Nwachukwu Egbunike also stated that West African countries “put 85 percent of their foreign reserve into France Central Bank,” under the control of the French minister of finance, journalist Mawuna Koutonin wrote in 2014. –other critics essentially called this foreign reserves deposit system a “colonial-era tax.” They should receive reparations and a new currency due to the loss they’ve acquired and continue to at the French hands.

The French only did things that were beneficial towards them in their pursuit of managing their global north status. The IE reinventing higher education, the English language university that examines issues that impact academia, government, and the private sectors, wrote an article called A POST-COLONIAL EXAMINATION OF THE CFA FRANC. The IE reinventing higher education stated, “At the beginning of Sub-Saharan Africa’s independence, a power vacuum emerged from the removal of French officers who had previously been in power led it to willingly accept continued French intervention and guidance, with those who were put in place being leaders educated by the French and willing to act as puppets to the French regime.“ The French put people who understood and followed French ideals/goals in power and assured it was in their best interest. The author also states, “Gnassingbé Eyadema who came to power in Togo through a military coup and led a repressive regime, had full support from France or was aided in his ascension because he furthered French interests. “The CFA has been around since the ’60s. The French have been taking African resources for themselves. The West African Colonies do not benefit from it. One of the 14 countries part of the West French colonies was Mali. In the article, 8 West African countries rename currency in historic break from France — but colonial-era debts persist by Amanda Lichtenstein, a writer/editor, and Nwachukwu Egbunike, an author and lecturer. The authors wrote, “Mali agreed to hold at least 50 percent of their foreign reserves in France.” Modibo Keita, Mali’s first president after receiving independence from France, wished to sever his ties with France. However, he soon became overthrown by soldiers the French had control over; he was thrown into prison and died. Mali has yet to get rid of the CFA Franc; the French continue to gain Mali foreign reserves. Many people have developed strong opinions and/or views towards the CFA Franc. Based on the text, 8 West African countries rename currency in historic break from France — but colonial-era debts persist, “Chihombori-Quao, former ambassador of the African Union (AU) to the United States, stated that France takes over $500 billion from Francophone African countries based on a pact they forced these countries to sign before they were granted independence.” According to the article, Chihombori-Quao made additional statements in her presentation, “The Pact for the Continuation of Colonization. Chihombori-Quao was soon fired on November 1, 2019, by the AU.

The opposing view believes that the French wish to help the West African Colonies, not take advantage of them. France is not like its former self when Charles de Gaulle was in charge. The West African colonized have received independence a long time ago. That should be enough as a reparation. Charles de Gaulle was the former president of France. However, Marine Le Pen is a new runner for the presidential election and shows how times have changed. She used the CFA franc as a campaign issue when she visited Chad in 2017. She promised to abolish the CFA currency and give West African colonies authority to be on the same playing field as France. France is no longer interested in keeping West African colonies under its control. The tax that the French receive from the West African countries is being untouched and going to the French treasury. The French do not use it for their benefit. According to the text, the “French Colonial Tax”: A misleading heuristic for understanding Françafrique by The Africa Report, a leading news organization on the continent, “50% of the countries using the CFA Franc currency must be stored into the Banque de France also known as the French treasury or national bank. The currency is soon pegged to the euro. The countries using CFA Francs are required to store 50% of their currency within the Banque de France, and the currencies are fixed to the European currency.” Instead of going straight into France citizens’ pockets, the currency goes to a bank. The CFA Franc helps with inflation and the economic growth of West French African Colonies. It keeps the economy stable. According to the Africa Report, the CFA Franc is a “beneficial arrangement that ensures that such countries are shielded from the devastating impact of price inflation”.

However, in spite of that, French West African countries to this day are somewhat under the control of the French. The French can reduce the value; they have done this before when facing problems. In 1994 The CFA was devalued by France. The pay went from 50 CFA francs per French to 100 CFA francs per French frac. 50 CFA francs equaled 1 French franc but now 100 CFA francs equaled 1 French franc. When devaluation occurred, there was an increase in prices and inflation. Landry Signé, an author and senior at the Global Economy and Development Program, wrote an article called, How the France-backed African CFA franc works as an enabler and barrier to development. Landry Signé stated, “CFA member countries’ governments imposed wage freezes and layoffs in the wake of the CFA devaluation, leading to widespread unrest over inaccessible goods for consumers and unmanageable price controls for suppliers.” In addition to that, it also states, “The French government again considered devaluation in 2012, which, while disregarded as a rumor, was assumed to be a method of safeguarding the euro and maintaining France’s credit rating. The CFA franc exchange rate could thus become a pawn in international markets to the detriment of CFA economies.”

The money the French received isn’t used on West African countries in any way. The West African Countries are losing a lot while the French continuously make gains. The IE reinventing higher education wrote in an article called A POST-COLONIAL EXAMINATION OF THE CFA FRANC that, “The colonial pact between France and its former colonies indicates a ruler that was not ready to let go. -the European nation has benefited greatly from this pact because the African countries contribute $500 billion-.” The money derived from the West African countries goes to the French treasury as taxation. The government or any higher authority uses taxes as a revenue source. They can use the tax to improve overall citizens’ well-being through programs, income equality, etc., and the environment with recreation centers and more. The French treasury supposedly remains untouched. However, the banks use it for different purposes. The bank’s markets division is called a treasury. According to Agnès Bénassy-Quéré, chief economist of the French Treasury, in an article called Where does the money come from? She states, “How did the banks invest your money? Broadly speaking, they had four choices: Keep the money as deposits in the banks’ bank -Buy French public debt securities; Lend to French companies and households; Lend to foreign governments and companies.” In addition to that, Agnès Bénassy-Quéré also mentions, “Our companies had no more customers, and yet we were still getting paid at the end of the month.”

Lastly, the West African countries remain under France’s thumb. They are unable to sever the tie the French created. West African countries cannot get rid of the CFA Franc. The CFA Franc continues to be perceived as a neo-colonial tax by countless people. The West African French colonies had developed self-government in 1956 due to the domestic policy given by France. The French had maintained control over the military, foreign affairs, and economic planning. The president of France, Charles de Gaulle, gave citizens of West Africa a choice in 1958. Their 1st options were yes to partner with the French. The French would make West African colonies dependent on France with restricted freedom, paternalistic. Their 2nd option was no. It granted West Africa total independence and severed its links to France. Their support from France would be destroyed. Guinea and Algeria wanted a total break from France so they chose no. However, they suffered at the hands of France and are still suffering to this day. Guinea got its independence in 1958, Algeria in 1962 choosing yes and was used as an example by France for anyone who chose to retaliate. It’s not like multiple people have already tried to sever their ties with France. Amanda Lichtenstein, a writer/editor, and Nwachukwu Egbunike, an author and lecturer also wrote in their article, 8 West African countries rename currency in historic break from France — but colonial-era debts persist, “When Burkina Faso became independent from France in 1960, Thomas Sankara attempted to cancel their agreement to hold at least 50 percent of their foreign reserves in France, and tried to cut ties, but was killed months later.”

In Italy, the deputy prime minister, Luigi di Maio believed that Africa was being exploited by the French. Based on Amanda Lichtenstein and Nwachukwu Egbunike in the article, 8 West African countries rename currency in a historic break from France — but colonial-era debts, “Maio said that France had “never stopped colonizing tens of African states,” the BBC reported. Maio further stated that were it not for Africa, France would rank 15th among world economies — not in the top six. The currency name change is symbolic and historic, but it does not undo years of French colonization in West African Francophone countries.” The CFA Franc currency has increased West Africa’s economic dependency on France, allowing only the French to make gains. The financial policies must be changed. We have yet to know what France will do with the West African countries’ taxes, especially when they face more economic problems. West African countries are suffering from long-term effects of colonization and continue to be taken advantage of by the French. West African countries are still suffering and something must be done. The colonized are still being colonized. At the expense of the West African countries, the French will do things only for their interest. They aim to make sure the West African countries stay subordinate to them. Thus the reason why the West African Countries should receive reparations and a new currency to lower the negative effect of poverty.

Works Cited

Ali-Dinar, Dr. Ali B. Ph.D. French in West Africa, https://www.africa.upenn.edu/K-12/French_16178.html.

Arabi, Iness. “A Post-Colonial Examination of the CFA Franc: International Policy Review.” International Policy Review |, 7 July 2020, https://ipr.blogs.ie.edu/2019/07/02/a-post-colonial-examination-of-the-cfa-franc/.

Conrad, Joseph. “The Scramble for Africa: Stjohns.” Home, https://www.joh.cam.ac.uk/library/library_exhibitions/schoolresources/exploration/scramble_for_africa.

“BBC World Service | the Story of Africa.” BBC News, BBC, https://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/specials/1624_story_of_africa/page7.shtml.

Bénassy-Quéré, Agnès. “Where Does the Money Come from?”  https://www.tresor.economie.gouv.fr/Articles/2021/09/06/where-does-the-money-come-from.

“France Still Robbing Its ‘Former’ African Colonies: Pambazuka News.” France Still Robbing Its ‘Former’ African Colonies | Pambazuka News, https://www.pambazuka.org/governance/france-still-robbing-its-former-african-colonies.

Hundeyin, David, and in Lagos. “The ‘French Colonial Tax’: A Misleading Heuristic for Understanding Françafrique.” The Africa Report.com, The Africa Report, 21 Nov. 2019, https://www.theafricareport.com/20326/the-french-colonial-tax-a-misleading-heuristic-for-understanding-francafrique/.

Lichtenstein, Amanda, and Nwachukwu Egbunike. “8 West African Countries Rename Currency in Historic Break from France – but Colonial-Era Debts Persist.” Global Voices, 15 Jan. 2020, https://globalvoices.org/2019/12/24/8-west-african-countries-rename-currency-in-historic-break-from-france-but-colonial-era-taxes-persist/.

Mbogo, Angeline. “What Is the French Colonial Tax?” AfriTechNews, 13 May 2021, https://afritechnews.com/french-colonial-tax/.

Signé, Landry. “How the France-Backed African CFA Franc Works as an Enabler and Barrier to Development.” Brookings, Brookings, 13 Dec. 2019, https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/how-the-france-backed-african-cfa-franc-works-as-an-enabler-and-barrier-to-development/.

Written By:

Marymanita Mensah

Grade 10

Benjamin Banneker HS