Thanks to the Franco-Italian tensions caused by Rome’s recent refusal to welcome migrants fromOcean-Vikingold jokes of the current head of the Italian government who accused France of colonialism resurfacemostly shared by far-right networks.
Guest on 20 January 2019 of the program “Non è l’arena”, one of the main talk shows in the country broadcast on the Italian channel LA7, Mmyself Meloni, who was then only a deputy and president of the Brothers of Italy, heavily accused France of using the CFA franc to unduly exploit the resources of the fourteen West and Central African countries that use it.
Giorgia Meloni’s attack was not isolated, as several leaders of the Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S) had made the same remarks on the same day. From Alessandro Di Battista, who tore up a counterfeit 10,000 CFA banknote on the set of “Che Tempo Che Fa”, to Luigi Di Maio, then president of the M5S and vice president of the council, who accused France of impoverishing the countries that used this currency, the Italian far right that day had chosen to make the CFA franc a central argument to attack Paris, in the aftermath of the disappearance of 117 migrants in the Mediterranean. Even if it means caricaturing the legitimate economic criticisms of this currency or literally inventing the facts.
The CFA franc, a colonial currency?
What Giorgia Meloni said:
“The CFA franc is the colonial currency that France prints for fourteen African nations. »
It’s quite controversial
The CFA franc (FCFA) is a currency used by fourteen African countries organized into two different monetary areas:
- L’WAEMU (West African Economic and Monetary Union), which brings together eight West African countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo.
- The CEMAC extension (Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa), which brings together six Central African countries: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Chad.
Created and officially used starting in 1945, the CFA franc was in fact initially a so-called “colonial” currency issued by the Banque de France in a number of countries on the African continent (CFA also meant at the time “French colonies of Africa”) Since then, the CFA franc is no longer issued by France but by the two central banks that govern the monetary policy of these two areas (UEMOA and CEMAC).They are the only ones who decide the amounts to issue and therefore the quantity of banknotes to put From a legal point of view, the member countries of these two monetary zones also have the option of abandoning the CFA franc in order to have their own currency.
The two central banks are not entirely free in their monetary policy, because the value of the FCFA is pegged to that of the euro
Which makes a number of critics say that the FCFA is the “the world’s last colonial currency”, is that these two central banks are however not entirely free in their monetary policy, because the value of the FCFA is pegged to that of the euro – which forces these two institutions to follow the policy of the European Central Bank. The latter requires limiting the value of inflation to less than 2% for the WAEMU and less than 3% for the CEMAC, and therefore to curb the press.
The fact that France has long been represented within the governing bodies of the central banks of these two “franc zones” is also, according to critics of the FCFA, a lever available to Paris to influence the monetary policy of these villages. Today, the French representation is much less influential in these bodies, as the FCFA “reform” of December 2019, enshrined in French law in spring 2020, saw the withdrawal of French representatives from the Central Bank of West African States, while those present, two in number, at the Bank of Central African States no longer have the right of veto. However, this withdrawal was not effected when Ms.myself Melons, in 2019.
One last aspect addressed by Giorgia Meloni is that this coin is printed in France, which is true. Two production sites (located in Pessac, in the Gironde, and in Chamalières, in the Puy-de-Dôme) are responsible for the manufacture of the monetary mass which is then transferred to Africa. It’s actually a rather classic contractual relationship, which many other countries also practice when it costs more to produce their own currency. As of 2022, more than forty of Africa’s fifty-four countries print their currencies abroad, as do some European countries, such as Denmark.
The lie about “lordship” French
What Giorgia Meloni said:
“France applies a seigniorage which allows it to exploit the resources of these nations. »
because it’s wrong
The argument is crucial in the rhetoric of the Italian far right, as it allows Rome to insinuate that Paris bears direct responsibility for the large flows of migrants attempting to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean. It is, however, false.
Giorgia Meloni is inspired by a reality: the two central banks of the areas where the CFA franc circulates had, until 2020, to deposit 50% of their currency reserves in an operating account of the Banque de France, in Paris. with the two monetary cooperation treaties signed with France. mmyself However, Meloni distorts this figure to the extreme, implying that it amounts to 50% of the wealth produced in these fourteen African countries, returning to the latter, as she affirms, taking the example of Burkina Faso:
“France prints its colonial currency for Burkina Faso, which has gold. In exchange, they ask that 50% of what Burkina Faso exports end up in the coffers of the French treasury. »
Giorgia Meloni takes up here an old argument of some detractors from Paris, who in the past spoke of a French “colonial tax” in Africa. This, however, has little to do with a tax and is not the same as extorting half of their wealth from African countries.
The monetary cooperation agreements signed in 1972 and 1973 with these two franc zones formalize certain operating rules that have been in force since the end of the 1950s, namely:
- the unlimited convertibility of the CFA franc into other currencies guaranteed by France;
- the fixed parity rate between the CFA franc and the French franc (hence the euro);
- the free movement of capital between the countries of these zones as well as with France;
- the deposit of at least 50% of the foreign exchange reserves of the central banks concerned in Paris.
This deposit was supposed to guarantee monetary stability to the user countries, with the aim of inspiring the confidence of foreign investors. Contrary to what Mr.myself Meloni, France has not made use of these funds, which remain the property of these fourteen African countries. This “operating account” opened up until recently in Paris was also remunerated by the Banque de France at a rate higher than the market rate (0.7%), and therefore annually brought several tens of millions to the two centers concerned.
Only a minority of African migrants come from countries in the franc zone
What Giorgia Meloni said:
“So the solution is not to take Africans and bring them to Europe, the solution is to free Africa from certain Europeans who exploit them and allow these people to live with what they have! »
because it’s wrong
Giorgia Meloni here uses pre-existing criticisms of the CFA franc to conclude that the impoverishment for which she is responsible would push many Africans to cross the Mediterranean to migrate to Europe.
However, the vast majority of people trying to reach Europe from Africa are not from countries that use the FCFA. “We cannot say that African countries in the franc zone are overrepresented in migratory flows to Europe, even if we look at things in the long term”noted Jacques Barou, director of research at the CNRS and migration specialist, in 2019 The world Africa. The main flows from Africa “they mainly leave from Sudan, Eritrea and Nigeria, three countries that have never been in the franc zone”he then pointed out.
According to data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) released in July 2019, just months after Ms.myself Meloni, most of the African migrants who arrived on European shores in 2017 and 2018 were in fact from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Algeria or Somalia, which do not use the FCFA. Many migrants also came from Cameroon, where the CFA franc circulates, but regular attacks on civilian populations by the Boko Haram terrorist group in the north of the country, floods and tensions between communities caused by reduced access to water and pastures are the main reasons for emigration of Cameroonians.
The data collected since 2014 by the IOM on the origin of migrants who died in an attempt to reach the Old Continent show a similar, albeit slightly different, trend. The Maghreb countries (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia) form the leading trio of African countries, followed by Senegal, Eritrea, Mali and Sudan. In total, of the 3,424 deaths identifiable as citizens of African countries, 80% were from countries not using the FCFA and 20% from member countries of the franc zones (Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Cameroon). Note that the origin of the majority (83%) of the 29,000 migrants who have died trying to reach Europe since 2014 has sadly not been identified.
Poverty obviously plays a role in the emigration of part of the population of these countries, but political or social violence is also a determining factor in the decision to leave a country, particularly in the Sahel, where “Violence has increased in recent years due to a combination of factors”notes the IOM in its latest report, released in 2022.
Economically, the debate about the FCFA’s impoverishment of African countries is almost as old as the independence of these countries from their colonial tutelage. Indeed, this currency is regularly criticized by economists for its support for a strong currency, the euro, which severely penalizes exports, and therefore the poorest populations of these countries.
If it is now relatively documented that the FCFA is partly unsuitable for the economy of these countries, it seems exaggerated to conclude that it impoverishes them, especially to the point of causing massive emigration. Several studies have concluded that the economic growth of the countries belonging to the franc zones has over time been quite comparable to that using other currencies.