Tag Archive | "CFA"

The Franco Zone: Colonial Tax or Stabilizing Unity?

Photo Credit: nsnbc international

“Without Africa, France will slide down into the rank of a third [world] power.” Former French President, Jacques Chirac, commented in 2008 on the close relationship and reliance France has on her former colonies. After World War II, France was quickly losing power over several former colonies in Africa and it appeared more bloodshed and destruction was imminent. In an effort to prevent war, and under pressure from the international community, France entered into a series of cooperative agreements known as the Colonial Pact with the nations of Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Togo, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon. These bilateral treaties between France and each former colony granted the nations independence and freedom in exchange for organizing their nation along several guidelines. The conditions included topics such as staffing government personnel, higher education, military policies, and a monetary framework. On its face, it appeared France was making a benevolent effort to give millions of people their freedom without any war or bloodshed. However, in recent years, these agreements have sparked controversy as some scholars believe they operate as a legal colonial tax, while others advocate that the centralized banks have helped stabilize some of these nations’ economies.

Many scholars believe these agreements are antiquated and hold the nations to monetary policies that prohibit real growth and economic independence. The most controversial condition found in the agreements is the continuation of the Communuate Financiere de la Afrique (CFA) currency and the utilization of the Bank of Issue. An example of this provision is found in Article 21 of The Agreement for Co-operation in Economic, Monetary, a Financial Matters between France and Dahomey, stating :

“Convertibility between the CFA Franc and the French Franc shall be unrestricted and guaranteed by the opening of a working account in the name of the Bank of Issue to be registered with the French Treasury.”

Furthermore, under this agreement, each country was required to remain a member of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) or the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC). The French treaty with Dahomey, mentioned above, further demonstrates this: “The Republic of Dahomey affirms its intention to remain a member of the West African Monetary Union, which has a Joint Bank at Issue.”

Under these stipulations, each country concedes to the continued use of a central “Bank of Issue” which will house over 80% of each nation’s foreign exchange reserve in an “operations account” completely controlled by the French Treasury. This increases the French Federal Reserve by approximately 500 billion dollars. From this account, France can withdraw funds to ‘repay’ itself for the development and improvements it made to the nations during colonization. Furthermore, the agreements lend France a priority option to purchase any raw materials after the country’s consumption, forced these nations to declare French as the national language, required the nations buy all military equipment from France, and allowed French businesses to maintain monopolies.

Some scholars believe that the continuation of the CFA and the WAMU and CEMAC organizations contribute to the stabilization of the Franco Zone. These proponents believe that the CFA Franc is a credible and stable currency which is necessary for the Franco Zone nations to achieve economic and political consistency. By having the majority of each nation’s foreign exchange reserve kept in the French Treasury, France is essentially backing the currency and advocating its credibility. However, this argument is easily defeated as many nations have left the Franco Zone and found much greater economic success with its own currency, such as Morocco.

Though this brief article highlights France’s beneficial relationship to its former colonies, colonization remains a current issue in the international community. Today, there are still 17 non-self-governing territories and many nations, including The United Kingdom and The United States, are being confronted about their control of territories and exploitation of people groups who have the universal human right to self-determination. The international community should work with both sides of colonization to determine the best financial and economic policies suited for each nation in the process of establishing self-determination.


Mallory Miller is a Staff Editor with the Denver Journal of International Law & Policy, and a 1L at the Sturm College of Law.

Posted in 1TVFA Posts, 2Featured Articles, DJILP Staff, Mallory MillerComments (0)

University of Denver Sturm College of Law

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