The end is near for one of the most contentious legacies of French colonialism in Africa. The eight-member nations of the West African Monetary Union have “unanimously” decided to end the policy of keeping their foreign reserves in the French Treasury
President Patrice Talon of Benin has announced that the foreign reserves of the West African CFA franc, the currency used by eight countries in the region, would be withdrawn from France.
In an exclusive interview with French public broadcasters, RFI and France 24, Talon said the decision was made unanimously by all the countries concerned.
Their currency, the CFA franc, is pegged to the euro, and its convertibility is guaranteed by the former colonial ruler. Under the controversial model, their foreign-exchange accumulation is also kept at the French Treasury.
“We unanimously agree on this, to end this model,” he said in the interview which was broadcast on 7 November.
“The central banks of African countries of WAMU (West African Monetary Union) will manage all of these foreign currency reserves and will distribute them to the various central banks partners in the world.”
Talon did not give a specific timetable for the implementation of the plan.
Since 1945, the West African and Central African CFA have been pegged to the French francs and later the Euro and its reserves have been kept in France.
Countries under WAMU include: Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Niger and Guinea-Bissau. It goes by the French initials, BCEAO.
The Central African bloc of countries that use the CFA include: Chad, Central African Republic, Congo Republic, Gabon, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea.
Some experts stressed that the model kept the African economies largely dependent on the European monetary policy, a situation critics have labeled “neo-colonialism”.
In January, Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio accused France of “impoverishing African countries” by manipulating the economies of the 14 countries that use the CFA franc. “If today we still have people leaving Africa, it is due to several European countries, first of all France, that didn’t finish colonizing Africa,” he said, sparking a diplomatic row between the two countries.
In early October, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said France was open to an “ambitious reform” of the CFA franc, indicating that Paris was aware of the plans.