The world’s media is commenting on the attempted coup in Niger and the reaction of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to this military seizure of power from a democratically-elected government. There is a plethora of explanations, rationalisations and prevarications about the roles of the principals in dealing with this crisis, but little concentration on what is the fundamental root of this, and many previous, destabilisations in African political history. The five-ton elephant in the room is France and it colonial and neo-colonial policies. There are many theories being advanced about the situation and its possible outcomes but very little discussion about what almost every African man, woman and child knows – the burden of French colonial practices on their nations and the learned dependence which has inhibited African growth and prosperity. There is no solution to the problem of Francophone Africa which doesn’t require the removal of French policies from the governance of these African states. The second requirement is the recognition that the United States has surreptitiously supported the ability of France to perpetuate its neo-colonial policies by choosing to concentrate on anti-communism and anti-terrorism on the continent. The U.S. has continued to support African governments which have been gross abusers of human rights (e.g. Botha’s South Africa, Mobutu’s Zaire, Museveni’s Uganda; Kagame’s Rwanda and former Portuguese colonies to name but a few) in the pursuit of anti-communism. The US is at war in Africa and has been so for many years. It has had practical experience in African wars. America has been fighting wars in Africa since the 1950s – in Angola, the DRC, the Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Morocco, Libya, Djibouti to name but a few countries.
In some countries they used US troops, but in most cases the US financed, armed and supervised the support of indigenous forces (surrogate armies). In many of these U.S. military interventions, the U.S. tacitly or overtly supported French policies against the will of the African people whose popularly elected governments the French sought to replace or discipline (in countries like the Ivory Coast). They also used their U.N. Security Council veto to permit the UN to openly support the French with UN helicopters and gunships as they were massacring African citizens. Between the mid 1950’s to the end of the 1970’s, only four overt U.S. military operations in Africa were recorded, though large-scale proxy and clandestine military operations were pervasive. Under the administrations of US Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. (1981–1993) military intervention accelerated, rising to eight, not counting the large scale clandestine ‘special forces and proxy wars in Southern Africa. Under the Clinton regime, US militarised intervention in Africa took off. Between 1992 and 2000, 17 armed incursions took place, including a large-scale invasion of Somalia and military backing for the Rwandan genocidal regime. Under George W. Bush, 15 US military interventions took place, mainly in Central and East Africa. The Pentagon has military ties with 53 African countries (including Libya prior to the recent war). Washington’s efforts to militarise Africa and turn its armies into proxy forces for the War on Terrorism got a boost in 9/11/2001. The Bush Administration announced in 2002 that Africa was a “strategic priority in fighting terrorism” Henceforth, US foreign policy strategists, with the backing of both liberal and neoconservative congresspeople, moved to centralise and coordinate a military policy on a continent-wide basis forming AFRICOM. AFRICOM organises African armies, euphemistically called “co-operative partnerships,” to conduct anti-terrorist wars based on bilateral agreements. In addition, there are dozens of US military installations in Africa, besides Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti (the Main Operating Base). These numerous cooperative security locations (CSLs), forward operating locations (FOLs) and other outposts have been built by the US in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Senegal, the Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, and Uganda. The US military also had access to locations in Algeria, Botswana, Namibia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Zambia and other countries. The U.S. engages with African armies in annual joint training programs and many smaller exercises. Many of the current leaders of the Niger coup were trained at such programs.
At the end of the Second World War France faced severe economic and political challenges. In addition to the destruction of the war it had a problem with the Vichyites who had collaborated with the German occupiers and their re-entry into national politics. The economy was in a dreadful state, even as the Marshall Plan began to deliver supplies and cash to De Gaulle as he pressed to restore the French economy. Soldiers were returning to find there were no jobs and little prospects of finding employment. The politics were riven by fierce competition as well between the Socialist and Social Democrats supported by the U.S. and Britain and opposed by the resurgent Communist Party supported by the Soviet Union. The Christian Democrats had support from the Church but were largely inconsequential. The Socialists were embittered by the activities of the French Communists under German occupation. The French Communists co-operated with the Germans as per the Treaty signed by Molotov and Ribbentrop, allying the Communists with the Nazis. The French Communists were active in sending Socialists to the jails and concentration camps. Their newspaper, L’Humanite, was the vehicle for disseminating Occupation decrees. That lasted until June 2, 1941, and its Operation Barbarossa with the invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany. The next morning the French Communists miraculously found themselves anti-Nazis. It was a miraculous transformation; almost as stunning as the morning of 8 May 1945 when half of France woke to find France independent again and able to reveal that they all had been secret Resistance fighters during the war.
One of the greatest challenges to the “New France” was its need to restructure its colonial empire that existed pre-1940. The creation of a Vichy France, under Marshal Petain had made France the vassal state of Nazi Germany. Vichy France controlled the North and Centre of France, locating its headquarters in Vichy, not Paris. A Free French state existed in the South under the Free French but was taken over by the Germans in 1942 after the Allied landings in North Africa. The Free French regrouped in England under the leadership of De Gaulle. The colonial territories of the pre-war French Empire fell under the control of Vichy. Despite this, there were Free French troops fighting against the Axis in both Africa and the Middle East. When the Allies invaded the European mainland, the Free French troops returned to France to continue their battles with the Vichy French and the Germans. The relationship of the French (both Vichy and Free) in the Empire was confusing and a source of trouble for the allies of both the Vichy French and the Free French. The problems which arose as the end of the war drew near were not only those in continental Europe; there had been dramatic consequences for the British, French, Belgian and Spanish colonial empires as well.
For the French, its ability to control and prosper from its captive African community was crucial to its economic and political standing in the world. De Gaulle admitted that French prosperity derived from the wealth and riches of Africa. In March 2008, former French President Jacques Chirac said: “Without Africa, France will slide down into the rank of a third [world] power” and Chirac’s predecessor, François Mitterand, had warned in 1957 that: “Without Africa, France will have no history in the 21st century”. Having these virtual colonies allows France, not only access to and control of the wealth of Africa, but also a reason to maintain its seat on the U.N. Security Council and to count on a claque of votes in the United Nations General Assembly from its francophone dependencies. After the Second World War and the reconstruction of continental Europe there was a wave of anti-colonial sentiment across the world. However, decolonization south of the Sahara did not happen as de Gaulle had intended. He had wanted to create a Franco-African Community that stopped short of total independence. But, when Sekou Toure's Guinea voted "no" in the 1958 referendum on that Community, that idea was effectively dead. Guinea was severely punished because of its decision to leave French colonialist rule and the French were obliged to proceed towards allowing the independence of its African colonies. When Guinea voted “No” in the 1958 referendum the French left Guinea, along with everything the French said they had brought to Africa,
The initial reaction to Guineans voting ‘non’ in the referendum on independence in 1958 is a good illustration of French reaction. There were about three thousand two hundred French nationals in Guinea at the time of Guinea’s exit from French colonialism. They were all ordered to leave Guinea by the French President. They took with them anything that they had brought or built in the country. They took all their property and destroyed anything that which could not be moved. They tore down or bulldozered schools, hospitals, nurseries and public buildings. They took hammers to the toilets and typewriters. They removed all the light bulbs, the medical supplies and measuring equipment at the research facilities. The killed the horses and cows at the farms and wrecked the tractors. They destroyed or poisoned the food supplies in the warehouses and shops. They said they would remove all the ‘advantages’ that French colonialism had brought to Guinea and that they would leave Guinea as they had found it centuries before. When Sekou Toure campaigned for a ‘non’ vote in the Guinean Referendum his slogan was “We prefer freedom in poverty to opulence in slavery.” The French wanted to make sure there was poverty.
The other African colonies understood the lesson. The price of independence for these colonies included maintaining a strict continuing French control over their economies and politics. The French and their former colonies agreed at independence to be bound by the terms of a new Colonial Pact.
The Colonial Pact
This Pacte Coloniale was largely the work of the French presidential adviser, Jacques Foccart. Jacques Foccart was the chief adviser for the government of France on African policy as well as the co-founder of the Gaullist Service d'Action Civique (SAC) in 1959 with Charles Pasqua, which specialized in covert operations in Africa. It was Foccart "the eminence grise" who negotiated the Pacte Coloniale with the evolving French West African and Equatorial African states who achieved their "flag independence " in 1960. Not really having planned for it, in 1960 de Gaulle had to improvise structures for a collection of small newly independent states, each with a flag, an anthem, and a seat at the UN, but often with precious little else, except a football team. It was here that Foccart came to play an essential role, that of architect of the series of Cooperation accords with each new state in the sectors of finance and economy, culture, education, and the military. There were initially eleven countries involved: Mauritania, Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire, Dahomey (now Benin), Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Niger, Chad, Gabon, Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, and Madagascar. Togo and Cameroon, former UN Trust Territories, were also co-opted into the club. So, too, later on, were Mall and the former Belgian territories (Ruanda-Urundi, now Rwanda and Burundi, and Congo-Kinshasa), some of the ex-Portuguese territories, and Comoros and Djibouti, which had also been under French rule for many years but became independent in the 1970s. The whole ensemble was put under a new Ministry of Cooperation, created in 1961, separate from the Ministry of Overseas Departments and Territories (known as the DOM-TOM) that had previously run them all. These co-operants took their places in the ministries and civil service of their “ex-colonies” and effectively ran the countries. In some cases, like the Ivory Coast, these co-operants represented more than a third of the key administrative posts and illustrates the nature of the problem.
Until recently, non-Africans--mostly French--still dominated the managerial and professional cadres. In 1973 the government set up the National Commission on Ivoirianisation to encourage the appointment of Ivoirians to managerial posts throughout the economy. Although Ivoirianisation of management was the announced purpose of the commission, Ivoirianisation was not to be implemented at the expense of efficiency. Consequently, most Ivoirianisation programs in commerce and industry were voluntary and produced only modest results. According to official figures, in 1979 Ivoirians held only 23 percent of senior management positions and 44 percent of junior management posts in all private, public, and parastatal enterprises. By 1982 the percentage of Ivoirians in senior management positions had dropped slightly to 21 percent; for junior-level management posts, the percentage had risen to 52 percent. Among the country's 300 largest companies, Ivoirians filled only 29 percent of top management posts, compared with 67.4 percent that were filled by non-Africans. The remaining 3.6 percent were filled by non-Ivoirian Africans. In addition, many Europeans worked as researchers, technicians, and shop owners, underscoring Côte d'Ivoire's continued reliance on foreign initiative and skills.
The government also employed a large number of European teachers and technical experts known as coopérants. Most were recruited by the French Ministry of Cooperation, but others were hired directly by the Ivoirian government through private, usually French, firms on a contract basis. The Ivoirian government was responsible for 80 percent of the total cost of those hired under official cooperation agreements and for 100 percent of the cost of those hired under private contract. Pressures for Ivoirianisation and the economic recession of the early 1980s prompted a gradual reduction in the number of coopérants from a peak of 4,000 in 1980 to 3,200 in 1984. The privately recruited foreign experts were employed mainly as technical advisers in government ministries and in state enterprises. There used to be one Frenchman for every four Ivorian civil servants. These Frenchmen set policies; handled the budgets; regulated hiring; negotiated contracts and ran the country for the Ivoirians. Despite a damning report by the World Bank and the IMF requesting that this imbalance between locals and French in the government and civil service be reduced, not much was done. Two years after the IMF request there were still 425 privately recruited foreign experts, costing the government CFA 11 billion annually. According to official figures, 81.8 percent of the salaried positions in the primary sector (agriculture and raw materials) were filled by non-Ivoirian Africans, while only 16.9 percent were filled by Ivoirians.
The Colonial Pact was much more than an agreement to station soldiers across Africa. It bound the economies of Africa to the control of France. For example, according to Annex II of the Defence Agreement signed between the governments of the French Republic, the Republic of Ivory Coast, the Republic of Dahomey and the Republic of Niger on 24 April 1961, France has priority in the acquisition of those "raw materials classified as strategic.” In fact, according to article 2 of the Annex, "the French Republic regularly informs the Republic of Ivory Coast (and the other two) of the policy that it intends to follow concerning strategic raw materials and products, taking into account the general needs of defence, the evolution of resources and the situation of the world market.” The French had a guaranteed continuing access to strategic materials. The first set of strategic materials listed included liquid or gas hydrocarbons. The second set included uranium, thorium, lithium, beryllium, their ores and by-products.
And to conclude, article 5: "Concerning these same products, the Republic of Ivory Coast (and the two others) for defence needs, reserve them in priority for sale to the French Republic, after having satisfied the needs of internal consumption, and they will import what they need in priority from it.” The reciprocity between the signatories was not a bargain between equals but reflected the actual dominance of the colonial power that had, in the case of these countries, organised "independence" a few months previously (in August 1960).
In summary, the colonial pact maintained the French control over the economies of the African states.
· it took possession of their foreign currency reserves;
· it controlled the strategic raw materials of the country;
· it stationed troops in the country with the right of free passage;
· it demanded that all military equipment be acquired from France;
· it took over the training of the police and army;
· it required that French businesses be allowed to maintain monopoly enterprises in key areas (water, electricity, ports, transport, energy, etc.).
· it required that in the award of government contracts in the African countries, French companies should be considered first; only after that could Africans look elsewhere. It didn’t matter if Africans could obtain better value for money elsewhere, French companies came first, and most often got the contracts.
France not only set limits on the imports of a range of items from outside the franc zone but also set minimum quantities of imports from France. These treaties are largely still in force and operational. One of the most crucial aspects of this continuing control by the French of their African ex-colonies was the use of a common currency in Africa operated by the French Treasury.
The CFA Franc
One of the most important influences in the economic and political life of African states which were formerly French colonies is the impact of a common currency; the Communuate Financiere de l'Afrique ("CFA') franc. The origin of the CFA franc was the decree signed by General de Gaulle as President of the provisional French government after the war, by. Rene Plévin, Minister of Finance in that government and by Jacques Soustelle, then Minister for the Colonies, on December 25th, 1945. It was published in article 3 of the official decree 45-01 36, with the publication of the text in the French official gazette on December 26th, 1945.
There are actually two separate CFA francs in circulation. The first is that of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) which comprises eight West African countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo. The second is that of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) which comprises six Central African countries (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon), This division corresponds to the pre-colonial AOF (Afrique Occidentale Française) and the AEF (Afrique Equatoriale Française), with the exception that Guinea-Bissau was formerly Portuguese and Equatorial Guinea Spanish).
Each of these two groups issues its own CFA franc. The WAEMU CFA franc is issued by the BCEAO (Banque Centrale des Etats de l'Afrique de l'Ouest) and the CEMAC CFA franc is issued by the BEAC (Banque des Etats de l'Afrique Centrale). These currencies were originally both pegged at 100 CFA for each French francs but, after France joined the European Community's Euro zone at a fixed rate of 6.65957 French francs to one Euro, maintaining the 100 to 1 ratio. It is important to note that it is the responsibility of the French Treasury to guarantee the convertibility of the CFA to the Euro.
The monetary policy governing such a diverse aggregation of countries is uncomplicated for African Central Banks because it is, in fact, operated by the French Treasury, without reference to the central fiscal authorities of any of the WAEMU or the CEMAC states. Under the terms of the agreement which set up these banks and the CFAs, the Central Bank of each African country was obliged to keep at least 65% of its annual foreign exchange reserves in an "operations account" held at the French Treasury, as well as another 20% to cover financial liabilities. Before 1973 the African nations had to transfer 100% of their foreign earnings to France. From 1973 to September 2005 the figure was reduced to 65%. After September 2005, the percentage was 50% (still with a 20% additional fee).
The CFA central banks also impose a cap on credit extended to each member country equivalent to 20% of that country's public revenue in the preceding year. Even though the BEAC and the BCEAO have an overdraft facility with the French Treasury, the drawdowns on those overdraft facilities are subject to the consent of the French Treasury. The final say is that of the French Treasury which has invested the foreign reserves of the African countries in its own name on the Paris Bourse.
In short, more than 80% of the foreign reserves of these African countries are deposited in the "operations accounts" controlled by the French Treasury and have been since 1961. The two CFA banks are African in name but have no monetary policies of their own. The countries themselves do not know, nor are they told, how much of the pool of foreign reserves held by the French Treasury belongs to them as a group or individually. The earnings of the investment of these funds in the French Treasury pool are supposed to be added to the pool but no accounting has ever been given to either the banks or the countries of the details of any such changes. The limited group of nine high officials in the French Treasury have knowledge of the amounts in the "operations accounts", where these funds are invested; whether there is a profit on these investments; are prohibited from disclosing any of this information to the CFA banks or the central banks of the African states.
This fixed exchange rate regime draws its credibility from monetary agreements with France that, via the Treasury, guarantee the convertibility of the CFA franc and provide the central banks an overdraft facility (compte d’opération) to meet liquidity needs. As a counterparty to this guarantee, 50% of their reserves must be placed within the French Treasury in the compte d’opération. The reserves must amount at least to 20% of central bank short-term liabilities. If the reserves are below this level (or if the compte d’opération is in debit) for more than one quarter, the central banks must take corrective measures (interest rate increases, credit rationing, and seizure of foreign exchange available in the zone). For a decision to be valid at the BEAC, it must be unanimously approved by all the members of the administrative council. At all times, no decision can be approved without the French agreement. France is, therefore, in a position to block any major decisions taken by these banks. So, if a decision is favoured by the African representatives and, if that decision does not tally with French interests, the French administrators have the power to block it. The way these central banks function, therefore, legalise and perpetuate the direct intervention of France in the vertebral column of the CFA zone economies. Even to appoint the governor of the BEAC, for instance, the candidate is proposed by African members, it still must be approved by Paris, which seeks to ensure that the governor is malleable and ready to dance to French tunes to the detriment of African economic interests.
This makes it impossible for African members to regulate their own monetary policies. The most inefficient and wasteful countries can use the foreign reserves of the more prudent countries without any meaningful intervention by the wealthier and more successful countries. Most importantly, the French Government uses these funds on deposit in France as assets of France. As such, the French Treasury can hypothecate the value of African reserves as if they were French capital and they can be used as collateral in pledging assets to fill French commitments to the European Union and its ECB. As Professor Mamadou Koulibaly, the former President of the Ivory Coast National Assembly stated “francophone Africans have been reduced to 'taxpayers for France. Yet our people neither have French nationality nor access to the public goods and services made available to other French taxpayers'.
Although a key part of the French domination of Africa is the control of the currency and reserves of the African nations, the roots of dependency are far wider. Not only were the day-to-day operations of the ministries in the hands of the French co-operants in country, the French control of the indigenous ruling class and their commerce were also major factors. One of the key features of the dependence is the important role played by the French Freemasons and their African lodge leaders in the running of the African countries. Virtually all the African leaders supporting the elite cadre of French business and political leaders are Freemasons affiliated to the same lodges as the French business and political group. It is impossible to understand how Françafrique works without reference to the Masons.
The French Masons represent the elite of French business and politics, Most of them were educated together at the same two schools in France and most pursue a career in the administration of the French government or the administration of French business. At French firms there is often pressure to hire or promote people based on their connections. A study by Francis Kramarz and David Thesmar published in 2006 by the Institute for the Study of Labour in Bonn looked at three French business networks: former civil servants who graduated from the École Nationale d’Administration, former civil servants who graduated from the École Polytechnique and École Polytechnique graduates who went straight into business. These two elite schools, which produce 500 or so French graduates a year, dominate the boards of France’s biggest companies.
Freemason lodges maintain a formidable, covert influence within the French judicial and police structures. All three Freemason lodges in France have gained reputations in recent years for being caught out peddling political influence and pursuing false invoicing on state contracts in France, particularly in companies controlled by the state. Freemasons in the judiciary hamper any investigations through bureaucratic measures designed to torpedo any serious attempt at reform. One of the topmost grievances raised by the muzzled Press is the Grande Lodge National Française’s (GLNF) open-armed embrace of brutal or corrupt African dictators who are Masons. The other two Grand Lodges are no different.
Just as in France, Freemasonry is ubiquitous at the very top in many African states. Denis Sassou Nguesso, the Congolese president, is Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Congo – Brazzaville linked to the National Grand Lodge of France; former President Mamadou Tanja of Niger; Chad’s Idriss Deby and François Bozizé of the Central African Republic were among at least twelve African presidents linked to the Masons. In November 2009 Ali Bongo, the new Gabonese President was ordained as the grand master of the Grand Lodge of Gabon (GLB) and the Grand Equatorial Rite, the two predominant Freemason orders in Gabon. In Congo-Brazzaville, both the current president, Denis Sassou Nguesso, and the former president, Pascal Lissouba, were freemasons, although they belong to different chapters of the order. Mr Lissouba was an initiate of the Grand Orient of France while Mr Sassou Nguesso belongs to a Senegalese lodge affiliated to the French Grand National Lodge. Most of these African presidents, but not exclusively, are francophone: Paul Biya, president of Cameroon, Blaise Campaore, until recently president of Burkina Faso; Robert Guei, former head of Côte d’Ivoire; John Kuffuor, former president of Ghana, to name but a few. There are scores more at Cabinet level and who are staffing African regional organisations and banks.
The Masons have always provided the leaders and the staff of French colonialism. The Grand Orient established its first lodge at Saint-Louis in Senegal in 1781 and, as a consequence, the names of a number of distinguished freemasons are to be found in the history of French colonial rule. The great French empire builder, Jules Ferry, was a freemason and so was the colonial governor, Félix Eboué, a Black man from French Guiana, who rallied Chad to the Free French cause in 1940, leading the whole of French Equatorial Africa and Cameroon to support General de Gaulle at a time when the Vichy Government was introducing laws against masons and Jews. A lot of the research on Françafrique was conducted by François Xavier Verschave, who coined the term ‘francafrique’. He wrote twenty books and innumerable articles on the subject, and he described the secret control system of its leaders as “the secret criminality in the upper echelons of French politics and economy, where a kind of underground Republic is hidden from view.” A lot of this ability to hide what it happening derives from two interlinked processes – the absence of any democratic procedures in the French political system for debating African policy and the empowered French Masons (and their African Presidential lodge brothers) who act to enforce the narrow interests of French business throughout Africa using the institutions of the French State. In return the African Presidents pay a tithe to the French politicians which funds French political parties and enriches others on a personal basis.
A Wikileaks report explained one such case. Gabon's late president Omar Bongo allegedly pocketed millions in embezzled funds from central African states, channelling some of it to French political parties in support of Nicolas Sarkozy, according to a US embassy cable published by El País. A senior official at the Bank of Central African States (BEAC) told a US diplomat in Cameroon of Bongo's "brazen" defrauding of the bank which holds the pooled reserves of six central African countries, including Gabon, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Shortly after Bongo's death in 2009, the US embassy in Yaounde said the bank source told them: "Gabonese officials used the proceeds for their own enrichment and, at Bongo's direction, funnelled funds to French political parties, including in support of French President Nicolas Sarkozy." The cable, released by WikiLeaks, continued: "Asked what the officials did with the stolen funds, the BEAC official responded, 'sometimes they kept it for themselves, sometimes they funnelled it to French political parties.' Asked who received the funds, the official responded, 'both sides, but mostly the right; especially Chirac and including Sarkozy.' The BEAC official said 'Bongo was France's favourite president in Africa,' and 'this is classic Françafrique. Whenever they have a presidential election in France delegations of politicians arrive in Africa to collect money for the campaigns.
The leadership of the French African community was formed by schools established by these French masons. A large proportion of the political leadership of post-World War II Africa was trained in a single school in Senegal created by the French for their chosen young leaders. The French established a school in Dakar (then the administrative centre of French West Africa) in 1903 called the École normale supérieure William Ponty where many of the most promising African leaders were trained in the art of governance and the French system. Graduates of this school played a very important role in the reconstituting of French colonialism to French neo-colonialism and monitoring the process of independence from France. Many became the first presidents of their countries Key among these was Félix Houphouët-Boigny and Bernard Binlin Dadié of Côte d’Ivoire, Modibo Keïta of Mali, Hamani Diori and Boubou Hama of Niger, Yacine Diallo of Guinea, Hubert Maga of Benin (Dahomey), Mamadou Dia of Senegal and Maurice Yaméogo and Daniel Ouezzin Coulibaly of Burkina Faso (Upper Volta) as well as Leopold Senghor of Senegal; inter alia.. The school was a teacher’s training school and many of the graduates went on to spread their knowledge and political inclinations in their home territories.
The Power Of French Businesses in Françafrique
However, it was the third element of Françafrique, more than any other which has had the most important role in the domination of the francophone countries – French business. As the French economy began to recover after 1950 French private and parastatal companies began to take over the Metropolitan French control of African trade. They also began to move in force to be sheltered in the protected markets of francophone Africa. Many, if not most of these companies remain in Africa, protecting their licensed monopoly markets delivered to them by French colonial policy. They became the operative power in Françafrique. Their names are familiar to anyone doing business in Africa. They include:
· Bolloré (leader in French maritime transport), principal operator of maritime transport along with Saga, SDV and Delmas, controls the port and marine transport throughout the West African region. It also controls the Ivorian-Burkinabe railway, Sitarail. Although it has withdrew, it has maintained its leading position in tobacco and rubber.
· Bouygues (leader in construction and public works in France, also present as Vinci, the second company in public works in France) has been number one in construction and public works, along with Colas, third-ranking firm in road building in France). It also has, through privatisation and obtaining concessions, control of water distribution and the production and distribution of electricity.and the recent exploitation of Ivorian oil.
· Total (the biggest French oil company – merged with ELF) dominates the oil and gas and owns hundreds of petrol stations. It has several oil and gas concessions.
· France Telecom (seventh in rank among companies in France and leader in the telecommunications sector) is the main shareholder of many of the telecom’s franchises in the region.
· In the banking and insurance sector, there is the Société Générale (sixth bank in France) the Credit Lyonnais, BNP-Paribas, and AXA (the second largest company in France and leader of the insurance sector.
After 60-odd years of independence, France still controls most of the infrastructure in francophone Africa. The airline, telephone, electricity and water companies, and some major banks, are largely French-controlled. The privileged position of France in a country like Ivory Coast is confirmed by a report made to the UN in 2006 which said that the French own 45% of the land and, curiously, the buildings of the Presidency of the Republic and of the Ivorian National Assembly are subject to leases concluded with the French.
The advantages of operating as a French company in francophone Africa come not only through the profitability of having a virtual monopoly in their economic sector but also by the leverage, they gain from being the largest taxpayers in the country. The French companies in francophone Africa, by virtue of their protected monopolistic or oligarchic status, contribute a substantial share of the GDP of these countries. More importantly, however, they are often the single largest group of taxpayers. In many of these countries the French corporations pay over 50% of the national tax revenues collected. This gives them a unique status. Quite frequently the French say that without the French companies the economy of the African state will collapse. When coupled with the inability of the country to access its reserves it undoubtedly true. However, it doesn’t follow that private corporations from other countries, like the U.S. or China, would not contribute equally. The rules of Françafrique have been maintained as the chasse gardee, the private hunting ground, of French companies and the francophone nations of Africa have actively and openly discriminated against the activities of non-French companies on the continent.
Another aspect of this dominance by French corporations is the inability of these francophone African countries to collect taxes from its ordinary citizens during periods of domestic political turmoil. In a country like the Ivory Coast which has been divided for a number of years between the rebel North and the loyalist South by French soldiers, tax collections in the rebel regions were impossible. The rebels waxed fat on taxes and fees imposed on their captive populations and the sale of stolen goods from their regions, all of which they kept for themselves. They were assisted by many French companies in the North who effectively smuggled imported goods into the North and smuggled out the timber, coffee, cocoa, cotton, diamonds and other resources to neighbouring French neocolonial nations like Burkina Faso and Togo. They paid no taxes or duties to the legitimate government in the South. Over half the population of the Ivory Coast and many of the companies in the North of the country paid no rents, taxes, fees, customs duties or utility bills to the Gbagbo Government. The French were adamant in supporting the rebels and in preventing their disarmament because it would have had a deleterious economic effect on the French economic interests in the country, not just a political one.
The lack of a citizenry paying taxes breeds a gulf between the government and the citizens; mutual responsibility is missing in the equation. It is the job of the National Assembly to legislate for economic programs based on the supply of revenue to the state, but if there are insufficient revenues delivered to the government the National Assembly is frustrated in its role. In many of the francophone countries, suffering under conditions of drought, lack of food; lack of health care; it is only French ‘aid’ to the national treasuries that sustains them. This ‘aid’ is often their own money which the French have shepherded for them and on which they must pay interest to the French on receiving them.
Françafrique And The Military in Africa
Francafrique was monitored and enforced by the French military but also by a large body of Africans, conscripted by the French to serve in the French Army. Most of the Africans were told that they had no choice. They were told that they must fight and were picked up by Army trucks from their home villages and sent for basic training, often with the complicity of the native chiefs and district supervisors. The French had created a body of African soldiers in 1857 when the French colonialists created a surrogate army of African soldiers from the Africans living in the several states composing the AOF (French West Africa) and the AEF (French Equatorial Africa). They called these soldiers the Tirailleurs Senegalais although they weren't limited to inhabitants of Senegal. The Tirailleurs Senegalais were created as the first permanent units of black African soldiers under French rule in 1857. These were not professional soldiers; they were drawn from the ranks of the ex-slaves and social outcasts who were sold to the French by the local African chiefs. From 1857 to 1905 the main recruiting of these soldiers was the rachat (repurchase) system in which slaves were purchased from their local owners by the French and turned into mercenary soldiers. The practice of buying slaves by the army was ended officially in 1882 but it was observed more in the breach than the observance.
In 1905 the French colonies in Africa were put under civilian rather than military rule. However, this removal of a French military rule over the region meant that ever more African proxies were needed to police and fight resistance forces, and as garrison troops. These surrogate troops were used to put down local uprisings and expand French rule. The Tirailleurs Senegalais participated in the conquest of Morocco in the early 1900s. In 1912 a new partial-conscription law was passed, making it easier for the French to recruit surrogates.
With the French entry into World War I these Tirailleurs Senegalais were sent to Europe to defend France. The number of West African troops serving under French command in World War I comprised about 170,891 men, and approximately 30,000 of them were killed. In Senegal alone more than 1/3 of all males of military age were mobilized and sent to France to fight. After the war the French colonial authorities passed the Conscription Law of 1919, which called for universal male conscription in peacetime as well as wartime. Hundreds of thousands of the Tirailleurs Senegalais were compelled to fight in France's colonial wars and to provide labour brigades for the colonial authorities.
During World War II these African troops played an important role. The Tirailleurs Senegalais troops were used in even greater numbers, initially by Vichy France and later by the Free French. In 1940, African troops comprised roughly 9% of the French army. The French recruited more than 200,000 black Africans during the war. Approximately 25,000 were killed in battle. Many were also interned in German labour camps and thousands of black African Prisoners of War were murdered by the Wehrmacht in 1940. One of those who escaped execution was later President of Senegal, Leopold Senghor. Despite his high level of education and acquisition of French citizenship in 1932, Senghor was enrolled as a French army enlisted man (2me Classe) in 1939 with the rank of private within the 59th Colonial Infantry division. A year later, during the German occupation of France, he was taken prisoner by the Germans and kept in several internment camps. He ended up in Front Stalag 230 at Poitiers, which was reserved for colonial troops. It was there that the Germans engaged in mass executions of African prisoners-of war. The main sport of the German guards at that camp was to randomly pick out their African prisoners almost daily and take them out to a field for target practice. Literally thousands were killed that way. Senghor escaped “by the skin of his teeth”. Senghor was lucky to avoid the daily executions. He was released for medical reasons in 1942 and went back to Senegal and his unit. He was then sent with his unit to Algeria as part of the French war against Algerian nationalists. He recounted some of his experiences in the famous book of poetry “Hosties Noire”; Black Hosts, published in 1948. It is the second collection of Senghor. The poet recounts his painful experience of war and labour camps, painful because of the physical violence and also the contempt shown by friend and foe to black men.
Not only was it difficult to be taken far away from home and placed in great danger on the front lines, but the French were divided between Vichy and the Free French. Both sides had large contingents of African troops under their command. The French were happy to use African troops against other African troops. Perhaps the best example was in Operation Explorer.
During the Second World War the Germans concentrated their Central Asian policies on supporting the regime of Rashid Ali and the colonels of the "Golden Square" in Iraq. They were trying to block British access to India and to the oil supplies of Iraq, then under British influence. In the spring of 1941, the French Government (Vichy) granted permission for German and Italian aircraft to refuel in the Levant en route to Iraq. The French were still the ‘Mandated’ rulers of Syria and Lebanon.by virtue of the League of Nations mandate The British were urged by the ‘Free French’ under de Gaulle to intervene against the Vichy French.
British forces in the Middle East under Wavell invaded Syria and Lebanon from Palestine and Transjordan on Sunday, 8 June 1941 (with columns arriving from Iraq later in the campaign) under the codenamed "Operation Exporter". At that time the ‘Allies’ were only the members of the British Commonwealth. The Soviet Union had not yet been invaded and the Japanese had yet to bomb Pearl Harbor. These Allies anticipated a quick knockout followed by immediate rallying of Vichy forces to the Free French. This did not happen, although the Vichy forces were small and without sufficient reserves or supplies. Their ground forces were tough and well-trained, and their small air force actually maintained air superiority for much of the campaign.
Instead of a quick victory, the Australian, Indian, British, and Free French forces slugged it out with the Vichy defenders and suffered several serious setbacks before the ceasefire on 12 July. The reason that the Free French and the Vichy French showed such valour was that they were both made up of Senegalese troops and Foreign Legionnaires. There were very few French actually involved, Free or otherwise. By July most of the Free French forces and the Vichy forces (especially the Senegalese), had enough of killing their countrymen, and refused to continue. When the campaign ended, with an Allied victory, only some 5,700 (out of about 26,000) Vichy troops elected to join de Gaulle. The remainder were evacuated by sea to French North Africa under Allied supervision. The Senegalese were tired of fighting other Senegalese and went home. The War in the Lebanon was much quicker as the French soldiers quit after six days because they had run out of Senegalese. An armistice was signed in Acre on July 14, 1941.
The war in Europe continued and large numbers of African soldiers continued to die. By late 1944 it became clear that an Axis victory was unlikely. It was a matter of time before the invasion of the German heartland would end with a German defeat. The Italians had already changed sides and De Gaulle was installed as the leader of the Free French. Vichy had disappeared. De Gaulle and his generals decided that it was time to “whiten” the French Army. They extended their gratitude to the African soldiers who were returning to West Africa in 1944 after the Liberation of France. De Gaulle, when he saw that the Allies had pushed the Germans out of France decided that it was too dangerous to continue to use these African troops. He ordered a “whitening” of the troops by replacing 20,000 Africans who were in battle at the front with white French soldiers. This event caused hatred and dislike between the white and the blacks at war. These Tirailleurs Senegalais troops were segregated in French demobilising centres waiting to go back home. While at the centres these African soldiers faced discriminatory treatment. They barely got the food and resources they needed and did not have any kind of shelter. The French refused to pay them the money they owed them and informed them that, as they weren’t French, they would not be entitled to any pensions or benefits from their contribution to the Liberation of France and Europe. They were then transported out of France to holding camps in Africa, near Dakar in Senegal. In December 1944, humiliated and without having been given what they were promised, the soldiers at the camp at Thiaroye protested for the back pay to which they were entitled. The protest was seen by the French as defiance against the French military and the general in charge, with the help of the gendarmerie, ordered the "white" French military to deploy machine guns and opened fire on the black African soldiers which resulted in thirty-five Africans killed, hundreds wounded and many sent to jail.
It was known as the Thiaroye Massacre. It is not in any French history books, but it isn’t forgotten among African soldiers. There is a good film on the subject by Ousmane Sembene, Camp de Thiaroye made in 1988. Despite this, the Tirailleurs Senegalais were compelled by the French to participate in the French counterinsurgency war in Algeria in the 1950s, fighting Algerian nationalists and preserving the French right to conduct nuclear tests in the Sahara.
The French felt obliged to use African troops in Algeria because the large numbers of Algerian troops who had fought for France were outraged at the behaviour of the French on VE day in 1945, where forty-five thousand of their relatives and countrymen were massacred in Algeria on one weekend. On May 8, 1945, a day chosen by the allies to celebrate their victory over Nazi Germany (VE Day), thousands of Algerians gathered near the Abou Dher El-Ghafari Mosque in Setif for a peaceful march - for which the sous-prefet had given permission. It was a market day. At 9am, led by a young scout Saal Bouzid, whose name had been drawn for the honour of carrying the national flag, the demonstrators set off.
A few minutes later the crowd, chanting ‘vive l’independance’ and other nationalist slogans, came under fire from troops commanded by General Duval and brought in from Constantine. Saal Bouzid fell dead, becoming a national martyr. The scene soon turned into a massacre - the streets and houses were littered with dead bodies. Witnesses described terrible scenes; those French soldiers and legionnaires seized babies by their feet and dashed their heads against rocks, that pregnant mothers were disembowelled, that soldiers dropped grenades down chimneys to kill the occupants of homes, that mourners were machine gunned while taking the dead to the cemetery. A public record states that the European inhabitants were so frightened by the events that they asked that all those responsible for the protest movement should be shot. The carnage spread and, during the days that followed, some 45,000 Algerians were killed. Villages were shelled by artillery and remote hamlets were bombed from aircraft. A Colonel in charge of burials was publicly criticized for slowness. He told his superior that ‘You are killing them faster than I can bury them.’ These incidents led to the upsurge of the PPA (the main Algerian nationalist party) and ultimately, 17 years later, to the country’s independence. In the retaliatory violence that immediately followed, 104 Europeans were assassinated, but by the end, several thousands of French and pieds noires were to die. These incidents were particularly hard for the Algerian Tirailleurs who had fought the Nazis alongside the French forces, some of whom came home to find that their families had been decimated by the troops of General de Gaulle. These depredations and the unsettling tales of the horrors of fighting attempted French colonial restoration of control in Indochina as well, reinforced the hostility of African troops to their French masters. They were more than happy to receive the largesse, advice and participation of U.S. programs of assistance with African militaries which preceded, and later included, the many training and assistance programs under AFRICOM.
The Operations of Françafrique
There is one recurring theme of franceafrique – the maintenance and support of French neo-colonial rule in Africa. These policies of Françafrique are the sole province of the President of the Republic and his “Cellule Africaine” (African Cell). They were not concocted by the French National Assembly or the result of any democratic process in France or reviewed by any competent authority. They are the result of policies concocted by and conducted by a small group of people in the French President’s office, the ‘African Cell’, starting with Charles de Gaulle and his African specialist, Jacques Foccart. For the past half-century, the secretive and powerful “African Cell” has overseen France’s strategic interests in Africa, holding sway over a wide swath of former French colonies. Acting as a general command, the Cell uses France’s military as a hammer to install leaders it deems friendly to French interests and to remove those who pose a danger to the continuation of the system. Sidestepping traditional diplomatic channels, the Cell reports only to one person, the President.
Under the presidencies of Charles de Gaulle and Georges Pompidou, the Cell was Jacques Foccart, seconded by Fernand Wibaux. Under President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, the Africa cell was headed by René Journiac, a former magistrate in the colonies until 1980. He was then replaced by Martin Kirsch, magistrate at the Court of Auditors. Four African advisers succeed one another under the chairmanship of François Mitterrand: Guy Penne from 1981 to 1986, Jean Audibert from 1986 to 19882, Jean-Christophe Mitterrand (‘Papa m’a Dit’) from 1988 to 1992, Bruno Delaye: from 1992 to 1995. It was less active under Mitterand. Under President Jacques Chirac, the advisor to the African cell was Michel Dupuch from 1995 to 2002. During his re-election campaign, Jacques Chirac appointed Michel de Bonnecorse, who remained in office until replaced by Sarkozy. The Cell included Aliot-Marie (the defence minister) and DGSE chief Pierre Brochand. They were aided by a web of French agents assigned to work undercover in Africa, embedded in French companies like Bouygues, Delmas, Total, and other multinationals, pretending to be expatriate employees. Under President Nicolas Sarkozy, the Africa advisor was Bruno Joubert. and as an informal adviser, Robert Bourgi and Claude Guéant.. Joubert was then replaced by André Parant from 2009 to 2012. Under President François Hollande, it was headed by Hélène Le Gal and her assistant, Thomas Melonio along with Hollande’s trusted friends, Jean-Yves Le Drian (Minister of Defence) and the chief of his personal military staff, General Benoît Puga. Under President Emmanuel Macron, the Africa advisor is Franck Paris, with Marie Audouard as assistant. In July 2023. The African Cell, led by these key heads were usually assisted by the Ministers of Defence and the DGSE who took their African policies directly from the President. French African policies are the personal preserve of the President of the Republic and his team of two or three advisers and assistants. African policy is the policy of the Presidential palace. Men like Foccart, Pasqua, de Bonnecorse and others translate the President’s wishes and whims into an African policy. The National Assembly, the political parties and the ministries are marginally involved and certainly don’t get to vote on African policies. French African policies are French Presidential policies (and the French business interests which fund the Presidency). The ego and stature of the President is intertwined with the African policy.
It was the African Cell who advised and directed and controlled the French response to challenges of the fundamental principles of Franceafrique. What is important about the effects of Françafrique on African states is that the French resisted any locally engendered change in the rules and had troops and gendarmes available in Africa to put down any leader with different ambitions. During the last 50 years, a total of 67 coups happened in 26 countries in Africa; 61% of the coups happened in Francophone Africa.
· The French began the ‘discipline’ of African leaders by ordering the assassination of Sylvanus Olympio in Togo in 1963 when he wanted his own currency instead of the CFA franc.
· In June 1962, the first president of Mali, Modiba Keita, decreed that Mali was leaving the CFA zone and abandoning the Colonial Pact. As in Togo the French paid an African ex-Legionnaire to kill the president. In November 1968 Lieutenant Moussa Traore made a coup, killed Modiba Keita, and became President of Mali.
· The French use of African ex-Legionnaires to remove Presidents who rebelled against the Colonial Pact, the CFA or Françafrique became commonplace. On January 1st, 1966, Jean-Bédel Bokassa, an ex-French foreign Legionnaire, carried out a coup against David Dacko, the first President of the Central African Republic.
· On January 3, 1966, Maurice Yaméogo, the first President of the Republic of Upper Volta, now called Burkina Faso, was victim of a coup carried out by Aboubacar Sangoulé Lamizana.
· On 26 October 1972, Mathieu Kérékou who was a security guard to President Hubert Maga, the first President of the Republic of Benin, carried out a coup against the president.
· There were several other assassinations managed by the French which took place without the use of Legionnaires. These included:
· Marien Ngouabi, President of the Republic of the Congo was assassinated in 1977.
· In Cameroon, Felix Moumie, who was the successor to previously assassinated Reuben Um Nyobe, was murdered by thallium poisoning in Geneva on October 15, 1960. His killer was a French agent, William Bechtel, who posed as a journalist to meet Moumie in a restaurant and poisoned his drink.
· François Tombalbaye, President of Chad was assassinated by soldiers commanded by French Army officers in 1975. Then, in December 1989 the French overthrew the government of Hissan Habre in Chad and installed Idriss Deby as President because Habre wanted to sell Chadian oil to U.S. oil companies.
· Perhaps the most tragic was the assassination of Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso in 1987. Thomas Sankara seized power in a popular coup in 1983 in an attempt to break the country’s ties to its French colonial power. He was overthrown and assassinated in a coup led by his best friend and childhood companion Blaise Compaoré on French orders.
· In March 2003 French and Chadian troops overthrew the elected government of President Ange-Felix Patasse and installed General François Bozize as President when Patasse announced that he wanted French troops out of the Central African Republic. A few years later the French deposed Bosize as well.
· In 2009, the French supported a coup in Madagascar by Andry Rajoelina against the elected government of Marc Ravalomanana who wanted to open the country to investments by international companies in mining and petroleum and refused to allow Total to unilaterally raise its contracted price for oil by 75%.
· The French used its troops in the Ivory Coast to provoke an attempted overthrow of the democratically elected government of Gbagbo. When the rebellion to oust Gbagbo failed, the French troops divided the country into two areas and continued to plan coups against Gbagbo. When Gbagbo won the election in 2010, despite French interference, the French troops (and the UN ‘peacekeepers’) used helicopter gunships to attack the Ivorian citizenry and took over the country in 2011.
One of the most troubling problems facing the French President and his African Cells has been the drive for removing the French military presence in the Sahel from the battle against the Islamic fundamentalists in the region. The French have led the military response against these forces. These terrorists are not, for the most part, invading foreigners coming to seek domination, power or advantage. They are locals who have taken up the Salafist ideology to further their joint aims of setting up an Islamic State and in preserving the smuggling routes across the Sahel. The ancient salt caravans across the Sahel from Mali making their way to Europe and the Middle East have evolved into caravans of drugs, diamonds and gold from Mali to Europe and the Middle East. The large revenues earned from this smuggling have helped fund the AQIM, the MNLA, MUJAO and other bands and have generated financial and political support from the Wahhabi extremists of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. The collapse of Libya under Qaddafi left these smugglers without a protector so the radical extremists who supplanted Qaddafi offered the smugglers of the Sahel the same protection as before and lots of weapons. The Sahel is still a major centre of illicit trafficking in goods. The tribes of Northern Mali are emboldened and protected by terrorist organisations in the barren wastes of Northern Mali and live, symbiotically, with the terrorist forces. Their paths are overlapping. While the tribes continue their smuggling, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) engages in illegal taxation in its areas of control, ISIS in Libya is active in human and narcotics trafficking, and Boko Haram generates significant revenues from trade in cocaine and heroin.
The French established a number of military programs to confront the terrorist forces in the Sahel, joining them up as a single program in 2014, Operation Barkhane. Following diplomatic agreements with Chad, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania (the “Sahel G-5”), over 3,000 French troops were involved in securing the Sahel-Sahara region in cooperative operations involving G-5 troops. Other assets deployed in the operation included 20 helicopters, 200 armoured vehicles, 200 trucks, six fighter-jets, ten transport aircraft and three drones. The initiation of Operation Barkhane brought to an end to four existing French operations in Africa; Licorne (Côte d’Ivoire, 2002-2017), Épervier (Chad, 1986-2014), Sabre (Burkina Faso, 2012-2014) and Serval (Mali, 2013-2014). France’s problem in maintaining its military presence in Africa was that it had run out of money. It couldn’t afford to maintain such a strong military posture in Africa on its own, so it went looking for funds from its European Union partners and the United Nations. It was able to get the assistance of its European Union partners in a Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) in programs like EURFOR in Chad, and from the UN, but the funds needed to provide a real challenge to the terrorists were wanting. In addition, African co-operation collapsed after the G5 Sahel—a regional group of countries promoting development and security, led by four juntas, effectively withdrew. Among the five members, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, and Chad have recently experienced an undemocratic transition of power; Mauritania remains. Niger is the fifth country in West Africa to experience a coup d’état over the past three years and has now suffered another coup. These coups deepened the growing tensions between Paris and its Africa counterparts so much so that in February 2022, Macron announced that French and European forces stationed in Mali as part of Operation Barkhane, and the Takuba Task Force would withdraw from the country. Macron announced he would concentrate on Niger, where the EU and the US supported the new Mohamed Bazoum government. President Mohamed Bazoum won presidential elections with 56 percent of the vote in February 2021. The elections were seen as free and fair. Bazoum succeeded President Mahamadou Issoufou who stepped down after completing his constitutionally limited second term in office. This peaceful succession represented the first peaceful transfer of power in Niger’s history. Under franceafrique, there had been 4 military coups between 1974 and 2010. Now Bazoum is out of power and the coup leaders have asked France to leave the country.
After the collapse of the French presence in Mali, the same situation emerged in Niger and the Central African Republic. The French intervened militarily in domestic disputes which they created and took over de facto control of the countries. Claiming that this was a battle against “terrorism” the French were able to pass on the costs of their reoccupation of their former colonies using European, UN and, mainly, US taxpayer money. Now, these countries in the Sahel have announced that, although they remain committed to the fight against terrorism, they also reject in whole and in part any efforts towards reinstalling the rigours of Françafrique. The UN, the EU and the U.S. don’t get a chance to decide who is the enemy in francophone Africa; this is still decided by France. They only get to pay for it and use their military to train the soldiers who try to keep Françafrique in place, in practice, if not by name.
The Economic Effects Of The Niger Crisis And The Role of ECOWAS
The economic pressures which have restrained the growth of African states has led to an effort to create a vehicle for closer relations among these states. In West Africa this led to the formation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). This regional grouping of fifteen African states (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo) contains Francophone, Anglophone and one Lusophone state. These nations joined together in the Treaty of Lagos in 1975 in an effort to construct an economic and monetary union which would promote growth, stability and the integration of the economic development in the region. ECOWAS was also designed to become part of an even larger union, the African Economic Community.
In 2009 these non-francophone states in ECOWAS pledged to introduce a common currency within their own grouping, the West African Monetary Zone –WAM. These states (Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, the Gambia and soon Liberia) planned on introducing a new common currency, the ECO, to rival the CFA franc and, eventually to merge the ECO and the CFA franc into a single monetary unit for the region. The pace of these developments was very slow although other regions progressed more quickly.
Triggered by the agreement in 2018 on an African free trade area, the pressures for creating a common currency have grown stronger. The reason why common markets, customs unions or multinational groups survive and thrive is because the constituent states trade with each other. The reasoning behind the formation of the European Economic Community; the EFTA and similar variants of these models is that the European states were trading heavily with each other. The uneconomic interference of customs duties, tariffs, currency restrictions, if scrapped, would be beneficial to all the partners. Despite the parallel battle over Federalism within the EU it has been clear that there have been positive and sustained gains for most parties from the creation of the union. Indeed, it has succeeded in attracting ever more candidates to the union.
This is not true in Africa. There is very little intra-African trade; indeed, most of that is the result of land-locked countries having to rely on neighbours for transit business. Intra-African trade, even in foodstuffs, is a small (around 5%) of national trade for most countries in ECOWAS. Some of this is due to producing raw materials which are exported to countries which are equipped to process them; the lack of a large and sophisticated domestic market for semi-finished goods which can be further processed; the lack of efficient storage facilities, inadequate energy supplies and, most importantly, the woeful lack of intra-African transport facilities.
Africa is a vast continent of immense resources but with very poorly developed transport integration with other centres of commerce. This lack of integration with the rest of the trading world is a heavy burden on African exporters and has led to a situation in which an enormous percentage of the prices realised by African exports in the world marketplace is paid for in transport costs. In the developed world these transport and insurance costs make up about 5.5%-5.8% of the delivered price. In some countries in Africa the cost of transport and insurance can make up to almost 80% of the cost of goods or products delivered to the world markets. Moreover, absent a developed intra-African air or sea service, this 80% of the market price for African products is paid to foreign transport companies in the developed world; and paid in U.S. dollars. This burden of external payments has had a marked effect on currency price pressures as well.
In March 2018, 44 African heads of state signed a framework to establish a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of capital and business travellers. The African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) is a free trade area encompassing most of Africa. It was established in 2018 by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, which has 43 parties and another 11 signatories, making it the largest free-trade area by number of member states, after the World Trade Organization, and the largest in population and geographic size, spanning 1.3 billion people across the world's second largest continent. On January 13, 2022, the ACFTA took a major step towards its objective with the establishment of the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS), which allows payments among companies operating in Africa to be done in any local currency. The aim is to create a common currency for the market. The CFA is an impediment to this growth.
In November 2019 Benin President, Patrice Guillaume Athanase Talon told Radio France Internationale that the eight former French Colonies in West Africa in the BCEAO have "unanimously agreed" to end the financial dominance of their economies by France. All the eight nations are currently members of the West African Economic and Monetary Union, (‘ECOWAS’). ECOWAS has recently announced the ‘ECO'; a single trade currency policy to be adopted by all Members States. The ECO will be the cornerstone of the single currency of the ECOWAS and will be aligned, on a continental basis, with the currency unions of other areas of Africa, like the East African Community (EAC)—the regional economic body comprised of Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Burundi which has moved toward creating its own common currency controlled by the “East African Central Bank.”.
The Southern African Development Community('SADC') is an organisation of 16 states. It includes Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, Malawi, Seychelles, Angola and the DRC. On Wednesday 22 October 2008, SADC joined with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and the East African Community to form the African Free Trade Zone, including all members of each of the organizations. The leaders of the three trading blocs agreed to create a single free trade zone, the African Free Trade Zone, consisting of 26 countries. Joining these with the ECOWAS has created the African Continental Free Trade Area (‘ACFTA’).
As yet there is no common currency, but all the states are pledged to develop and adopt a working structure for the ECO. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is testing a cross-border payment system and encouraging more member states to adopt the South African rand, and the East African Community (EAC) plans to have a sub-regional currency within the decade. These monetary unions should help attract foreign investment and reduce exchange rate uncertainties.
The talk of the Pan-Africanists about a united African market stretches back to the 1920s. Several noted African leaders, like Nkrumah, Sankara and Sekou Toure pledged themselves to this ambition. With the transformation of the OAU to the African Union and the launching of the initiative of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD; both in 2001) the old idea of a common African currency was resurrected. One of the few successful efforts for a common currency union was the Common Monetary Area (CMA) in Southern Africa; based on a tripartite arrangement between South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland that came into effect in 1974, at which time these countries were known as the Rand Monetary Area. Despite efforts to expand this Rand Zone beyond its initial borders, the pressures of the anti-apartheid struggle prevented further progress.
The dependence of francophone African states on France and the French Treasury for control of its retained earnings is a gigantic barrier for the Africans to avail themselves of Chinese, Asian, Western and Middle Eastern investments. No foreign investor wants to go cap-in-hand to the French to get the funds needed to repay the costs of their investments in Africa. It is absurd that a major international player like China would be willing to invest in a francophone state if the ability of the country to service the debt depends on a small country like France (with a GDP less than the state of California) to guarantee repayment. This has been made clear by the investors to the Africans, some of whom are willing to expand their horizons beyond France.
In December 2019, French President, Macron, agreed and praised the move towards the Eco. Macron said the renamed eco would still be pegged to the euro and guaranteed by France. However, countries using the currency will no longer have to keep half of their reserves at the French treasury, nor will there be a French representative on the currency union’s board. The French have claimed that it intends to leave the governance of the system with the West African states. However, in order to allow the French to maintain the exchange rate of the ECO the French Treasury would still retain control of the African reserves. If reserves were to fall below a certain level, France would be entitled to request the reintroduction of its seat on the Eco’s monetary policy committee. France will also have the right to nominate one “independent” member of the monetary policy committee. The French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said, “a good balance” had been found in the new regime: “The zone keeps the exchange rate fixed with the euro...guaranteeing currency stability and protection against inflation.”.
That sounds like progress but shuffling the cards around the tabletop has always made choosing the right card a difficulty. Under Macron’s “new system” African reserves will still be held by the French Treasury so that the Treasury can deal with currency stability. The new reserves don’t have to be held in France but will be denominated in a currency which is controlled by the French Treasury even if the reserves are held in an African treasury. There is no provision under the “new system” for a tally of the exact amount of money being held at the French Treasury for each country. The direct role of the French Treasury in the control of the currency will be disadvantageous to the other members, non-francophone states, whose priorities do not align with those of the French as it can prevent countries from devaluing to counter external shocks and can hamper industrialisation by keeping the exchange rate artificially high. There will be, despite the notional currency shuffle, little changes being made or applied to the remnants of the Colonial Pact; preferences for French companies in competitive bidding, monopoly positions in utilities and services; stationing of French troops, inter alia. The African states look on this scheme is a bluff and a ruse for maintaining French control. It masks the fact that France is deeply in debt with rising costs, and that the francophone states will never be free until they cut their umbilical cord to France and stand on their own in the company of their fellow Africans.
This is why the current crisis in Niger has brought all these questions to the fore. The African leaders, be they coup makers, elected democrats, sainted holy men, sadhus or monsters know that their citizens do not want their countries to be dependencies of France. That is what all the protests repeat on a daily basis at every demonstration.
The Sun Is Setting on French Colonialism
There is one major complicating factor in the effort to bring peace and security to the Sahel, the role of the U.S. Throughout the history of American interaction in Africa there is one feature which stands out. American policy gives lip service to ideologically pleasing concepts like democracy, justice, harmony and equality before the law while, at the same time, supporting the enemies of these concepts as they manifest themselves in political choices. The list of American support for dictators, sociopaths and corrupt bandits in countries like South Africa, Rwanda, Zaire, Uganda, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast (to name but a few) are too many and often to count. This is not because the Americans don’t know better, as they try to hide this support in covert programs, but because they are addicted to rabid anti-communism as if it were the ultimate prize. If there is a despot, degenerate villain in charge of a country who also happens to be an anti-communist the U.S. sees a reason to help him. This is not a party statement; it applies to both Republican and Democrats equally. This view was the background for policy statement like NSSM39 which “tilted” American policy towards apartheid South Africa, or the Korry Report NSAM356 which proposed “benign neglect” for African states.. Perhaps there will be a recognition that there will not be a workable solution to the problems of the Sahel until the French presence is resolved. That would be an important step forward for Africa and for the U.S.