The CFA Franc: A Stabilizing Force or Neocolonial Relic in West Africa?

At a Glance:

The CFA Franc has undoubtedly provided general macroeconomic stability across West Africa for several decades, however its efficacy is challenged by the region’s poor economic integration, and weak integration into global value chains. This report finds that while criticism of the CFA franc as a mere neocolonial tool may oversimplify more complex dynamics, it is clear that the CFA supported a counterproductive logic focused on facilitating trade with France and developed countries, rather than tightening economic ties between African states, which distorted natural patterns of growth and regional integration. It argues that in order to reverse this trend, the WAEMU and the CEMAC should consider differentiated reforms to improve monetary flexibility and allow the CFA franc to fluctuate by tying the exchange rate to a basket of currencies.

 

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[1] On 7 February 2019, France recalled its Ambassador to Italy for the first time since World War II.

[2] See: New York Times. “The African Currency at the Center of a European Dispute.” 2019. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/22/world/africa/africa-cfa-franc-currency.html?login=smartlock&auth=login-smartlock

[3] Issiaka, Coulibaly; Davis, Junior. “Exchange rate regimes and economic performance: Does CFA zone membership benefit their economies?” 2013.

[4] Ballong, Stephane. « Franc CFA. Pourquoi ils veulent changer les règles ? » Jeune Afrique. 2015. 2855:59–61

[5] The ECOWAS Common Currency is widely viewed as unlikely as the zone’s largest member, Nigeria, has yet to signal strong support. See: France 24. Monnaie commune dans la Cédéao : "le processus n’en est qu’à ses balbutiements." 2018. Available at : https://www.france24.com/fr/20180223-afrique-cedeao-zone-monnaie-unique-abandon-franc-cfa-accra-ghana-sommet

[6] Ndao, Souleymane. “What Makes the CFA Franc Zone a Special Form of Monetary Integration. Economic Alternatives. Issue 4. 2016. Available at: https://www.unwe.bg/uploads/Alternatives/S_N_2016_Issue4_en-8.pdf

[7] Comprised of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote D’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo

[8] Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Chad

[9] Hallerberg, Eric. “Costs and Benefits of Monetary Union. A Study of the CFA Franc Zone.” Department of Economics. Emory University. 2002. See also: France 24, “African Franc Faces Unlikely Foes on Europe’s Fringes.” 2019. Available at: https://www.france24.com/en/20190124-african-franc-faces-unlikely-foes-europes-fringes

[10] Alby, Stephane. “CFA France: A New Stress Test.” Economic Research. BNP Paribas. 2018. Available at: https://economic-research.bnpparibas.com/Views/DisplayPublication.aspx?type=document&IdPdf=30926

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] International Monetary Fund. “The CFA Franc Zone. Common Currency, Uncommon Challenges.” 2008. Available at: https://www.imf.org/~/media/Websites/IMF/imported-publications/external/pubs/nft/books/2008/cfazone/_chap1.ashx

[14] CFA member countries are increasingly trading with China, Nigeria, India and others, while exports to the Euro zone falling sharply from 50% to 25% over the last 20 years. This also curbs the benefits of direct exchange rate stability with the Euro. See: Coulibaly, Issiaka. “Costs and Benefits of the CFA Franc.” World Policy. 2017. Available at: https://worldpolicy.org/2017/02/28/costs-and-benefits-of-the-cfa-franc/

[15] UNCTAD Statistics Database. 2019. See: https://unctadstat.unctad.org/EN/

[16] Ndao, Souleymane; Nenovsky, Nikolay; Tochkov, Kiril. “Does Monetary Integration lead to income convergence in Africa? A Study of the CFA Monetary Area.” Portuguese Economic Journal. 2018.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Cecile Couharde; Issiaka Coulibaly; David Guerreiro; Valerie Mignon. “Revisiting the theory of optimum currency areas: Is the CFA franc zone sustainable?” Centre D’Etudes Prospectives et d’Informations Inernationales. 2012. Available at: http://cepii.fr/PDF_PUB/wp/2012/wp2012-13.pdf

[19] Nkrumah, Kwame. “Neocolonialism. The Last Stage of Imperialism.” New York: International Publishers Co., Inc. 1984.

[20] Profant, Tomas. “French geopolitics in Africa: From neocolonialism to identity.” Perspectives, 18(1), 41-61,105. 2010.

[21] Okeke, V. and Aniche, E. “Economic regionalism and Dependency in Africa: A Study of African Economic Community.” Arabian Journal of Business and Management Review. Vol. 1, No. 11. 2012.

[22] Ibid. To date, Central African countries export more to France than they do to each other.

[23] Ndao et al. 2018.

[24] This has been advocated by Carlos Lopes, former executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

[25] Coulibaly, Issiaka. “Costs and Benefits of the CFA Franc.” World Policy. 2017. Available at: https://worldpolicy.org/2017/02/28/costs-and-benefits-of-the-cfa-franc/