AFRICANGLOBE – Just before France conceded to African demands for independence in the 1960s, it carefully organised its former colonies (CFA countries) in a system of “compulsory solidarity” which consisted of obliging the 14 African states to put 65 percent of their foreign currency reserves into the French Treasury, plus another 20 percent for financial liabilities.
This means these 14 African countries only ever have access to 15 percent of their own money! If they need more they have to borrow their own money from the French at commercial rates.
And this has been the case since the 1960s. Believe it or not it gets worse.
France has the first right to buy or reject any natural resources found in the land of the Francophone countries.
So even if the African countries can get better prices elsewhere, they can’t sell to anybody until France says it doesn’t need the resources. In the award of government contracts, French companies must be considered first; only after that can these countries look elsewhere. It doesn’t matter if the CFA countries can obtain better value for money elsewhere.
Presidents of CFA countries that have tried to leave the CFA zone have had political and financial pressure put on them by successive French presidents.
Thus, these African states are French taxpayers — taxed at a staggering rate — yet the citizens of these countries aren’t French and don’t have access to the public goods and services their money helps pay for. CFA zones are solicited to provide private funding to French politicians during elections in France.
The above is a summary of an article we came across in the February issue of the New African (and from an interview given by Professor Mamadou Koulibaly, Speaker of the Ivorian National Assembly, Professor of Economics, and author of the book “The Servitude of the Colonial Pact”), and we hope they won’t mind us sharing it with you influx.
Currently, there is the awkward case in Abidjan where, before the elections, former president Laurent Gbagbo’s government wanted to build a third major bridge to link the central business district (called Plateau) to the rest of the city, from which it is separated by a lagoon.
By Colonial Pact tradition, the contract must go to a French company, which incidentally has quoted an astronomical price — to be paid in euros or US dollars.
Not happy, Gbagbo’s government sought a second quote from the Chinese, who offered to build the bridge at half the price quoted by the French company, and — wait for this — payment would be in cocoa beans, of which Cote d’Ivoire is the world’s largest producer.
But, unsurprisingly, the French said “non, you can’t do that”.
Overall the Colonial Pact gives the French a dominant and privileged position over Francophone Africa, but in Côte d’Ivoire, the jewel of the former French possessions in Africa, the French are overly dominant.
Outside parliament, almost all the major utilities — water, electricity, telephone, transport, ports and major banks — are run by French companies or French interests. The same story is found in commerce, construction, and agriculture. In short, the Colonial Pact has created a legal mechanism under which France obtains a special place in the political and economic life of its former colonies.?
In what meaningful way can any of the 14 CFA countries be said to be independent? If this isn’t illegal and an international crime, then what is? What is it going to take for this state of indentured servitude to end?
How much have the CFA countries lost as a result of this 50-year (and counting) “agreement”?
Do French people know they’re living off the wealth of African countries and have been doing so for over half a century? And if they know, do they give a damn? When will France start paying back money they’ve sucked from these countries, not only directly from the interest on cash reserves and loans these countries have had to take out, but also on lost earnings from the natural resources the countries sold to France below market rates as well as the lost earnings resulting from awarding contracts to French companies when other contractors could have done things for less?
Does any such “agreement” exist between Britain and its former colonies, or did they really let go when they let go?
By: Siji Jabbar