On 21 December 2019, the Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron formally announced three reforms to the CFA franc – the colonial currency created on 26 December 1945 and still in use in 14 African countries, including the eight Member States of the UEMOA (the West African Economic and Monetary Union).
The envisaged reforms include the change of name from the West African CFA franc to ECO; the abolition of the requirement for the BCEAO (the Central Bank of West African States) to deposit its foreign exchange reserves with the French Treasury; and the withdrawal of the representatives of France from the organs of the BCEAO.
These developments did not come about as a result of the benevolence of the French government or of its Ivorian ally, who had long been advocates of the status quo. They were rather triggered by the outcry for the abolition of the CFA franc orchestrated in the recent past by pan-Africanist social movements, intellectuals, ordinary citizens, etc. within the continent and in the diaspora. This is the time and occasion therefore to commend and encourage those working tirelessly in pursuit of the collective emancipation of Africa.
Be that as it may, it is still premature to claim victory. Some of the embarrassing symbols associated with the CFA franc will no doubt disappear, but the bonds of monetary subservience en- shrined in legal and monetary policy would continue to exist.
That aside, the announcement of the future change of name from the CFA franc to “ECO” is puzzling. ECO was the name chosen in June 2019, in Abuja, by the fifteen-member countries of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) to designate the single West African regional currency then in gestation. The project had been brewing within ECOWAS since 1983 though its launching had been deferred on several occasions.
Why would UEMOA countries then arrogate to themselves the right to effect a change from CFA franc to ECO whereas they are yet to comply with the criteria set by ECOWAS for entry into the ECO currency zone? How is one to view and appraise the hasty declaration by Macron and Ouattara maintaining France as the alleged “guarantor” of the CFA franc now renamed ECO and upholding the fixed parity with the euro, whereas to introduce its new currency, ECOWAS had asked for the complete withdrawal of France from the management of the currency of UEMOA countries? Need the point further be made that ECOWAS had also opted to peg its currency to a basket of currencies.
Should there not be cause for concern over an attempt at sabotage, especially in view of the French government’s oft-expressed desire to expand the use of the CFA franc to include English-speaking West African countries and thus isolate Nigeria?
With the current confusion, compounded rather than dissipated by the various communiqués from ECOWAS, BCEAO, the Republic of Nigeria, the Republic of Ghana, etc., we call on the citizens of ECOWAS Member States to be more vigilant in light of the recent developments relating to the CFA franc and ECO.
Though we welcome the emerging public debate on the CFA franc, driven by intellectuals and civil society actors in Africa, we must equally deplore the troubling dormancy of our Heads of State and Government on an issue of such symbolic, political, economic and psycho-sociological importance.
With the failure of African governments to react on an issue that affects the future of more than 300 million people in West Africa and bears on regional integration, we ask:
- The Heads of State of UEMOA and ECOWAS to live up to their commitments to their respective peoples by initiating a people-centred and inclusive debate on the envisaged reforms. Sovereignty does indeed reside primarily with the people who have on their own – need the point be emphasized – triggered the debate on the CFA franc and on monetary sovereignty in West Africa.
- It is up to the UEMOA Heads of State to inform their fellow citizens in a clear and unambiguous manner about the amazing declarations of Alassane Ouattara and Emmanuel Macron to which they seem to be bound, whereas they are yet to clear with their parliaments and other relevant republican institutions.
- Economic and monetary specialists within ECOWAS, UEMOA and BCEAO to participate actively in the public debate on the reforms, by weighing their proposals against the objections raised by independent civil society researchers and leaders.
- The peoples of ECOWAS Member States to remain engaged in the public debate on France’s definitive withdrawal from the management of the currency of our States and on the adoption of sovereign monetary systems that serve the people and form part of the process of establishing a Federation of West African States.
We affirm and confirm that the monetary/currency question is fundamentally political and that the answer cannot be primarily technical. As an instrument and symbol of sovereignty, money/currency considerations must stem from the most profound aspirations of the peoples of Africa, who should be permanently involved in the ongoing processes. In that regard, we are of the opinion that convergence criteria are not the most suitable approach. They need to be reviewed and possibly replaced by indicators of a more political nature which factor in the challenges of this day and age such as industrialization, empowerment of local producers, competitiveness of national enterprises in the ECOWAS zone, full employment and ecological transformation.
We seek economic and monetary sovereignty for ECOWAS because it is the straightforward path to ending economic extraversion, foreign exchange indebtedness, illicit financial flows and other factors inhibiting inclusive economic growth.
Dakar, January 1st 2020
Contacts : LEGS-Africa ; [email protected] ; Cell & whatsapp: + 221 77 650 88 44
Lists of the names of personalities who signed the text:
Makhily Gassama, Essayist, former Ministre and Ambassadeur (Sénégal)
Boubacar Boris Diop, Writter (Sénégal)
Aminata Dramane Traoré, Essayist, former Minister of Culture and chairwoman of the Groupe « États généraux du franc CFA et des Alternatives » (Mali)
Mariam Sankara, Economist (Burkina Faso)
Odile Sankara, Artist, actor (Burkina Faso)
Odile Tobner, Academic, Essayist (Cameroun)
Tony Obeng, Development Analyst, former Professor at IDEP and former Diplomate (Ghana) Mamadou Koulibaly, Economist and politician(Côte d’Ivoire)
Nathalie Yamb, consultant and politician (Côte d’Ivoire)
Véronique Tadjo, Writter, Academic (Côte d’Ivoire/Afrique du Sud)
Bouchentouf-Siagh Zohra, Academic, Essayist (Algérie/Autriche)
Ibrahim Abdullah, Professor of History (Sierra Leone)
Koulsy Lamko, Academic, Essayist (Tchad, Mexique)
Stanislas Spero Adotevi, academic, Essayiste and former Director of UNICEF (Bénin/Burkina Faso)
Cheick Oumar Sissoko, Film maker and former Minister (Mali)
Antonin Zigoli, Academic, Université Félix Houphouët Boigny (Côte d’Ivoire)
Ndongo Samba Sylla, Economist and Essayist (Sénégal)
Issa N’diaye, Philosopher and former Minister (Mali)
Elimane Haby Kane, Sociologist, President of LEGS-Africa (Sénégal)
Ngaba Ngadoy, Economist and Financer (Tchad)
Rahmane Idrissa, Politist (Pays Bas, Niger)
Amadou Tidiane Wone, former Minister, former Ambassadeur (Sénégal)
Adama Samaké, Academic, University Félix Houphouët Boigny (Côte d’Ivoire) Mamadou Diop, former Haut fonctionnaire and Essayist (Sénégal)
Dialo Diop, Doctor biologist and politician (Sénégal)
Cheikh Hamala Diop, Economist et interpretor (Sénégal)
Sandjiman Mamder, Economist, former Hight official, ILO/UN (Tchad/Genève) Raphaël Eklunatey, Biologist (Togo/Genève)
Martin Bire, Education Specialist (Tchad/Prague)
Mouhamed Ly, Anthropologist(Sénégal)
Crystal Simeoni, Feminist Economist (Kenya)
Cheikh Oumar Diagne, Economist (Sénégal)
Amadou Elimane Kane, Writter and Poet (Sénégal)
Coumba Touré, Africans Rising Coordinator (Sénégal)
Jibrin Ibrahim, Researcher at Centre for Democracy and Development (Nigeria)
Elom 20ce, Artist and Rap musician (Togo)
Redge Nkosi, Economist (Afrique du Sud)
Ismail Rashid, Historian (Sierra Leone/USA)
Amy Niang, Academic (Afrique du Sud)
Mouhamadou Lamine Sagna, Anthropologist (Nigeria/Sénégal)
Many Camara, Sociologist (Mali)
Versa Mshana, Lawyer (Tanzanie)
Mahmoud Ibrahime, Historian (Comores)
Carlos Vamain, Jurisconsult, former Minister (Guinée-Bissau)
George Klay Kieh, Jr., Academic (Libéria)
Momar Sokhna Diop, Professor Économy and Managment, Essayist (Sénégal /France)
Cheikh Gueye, Géograph and permanent secretary of Alternative Report On Africa (Sénégal)
Lionel Zevounou, Maître de conférences in Public Law (France)
Mouhamadou Ngouda Mboup, Professor-researcher in Public Law (Sénégal)
Luc Damiba, researcher, PhD candidate ( Burkina Faso)