The allegory of ‘bleeding Africa and feeding France’ is no exaggeration.
Do you know France has a tremendous stake in its former African colonies?
France may have withdrawn the physical colonial administration, but it continues to be omnipresent in Francophone Africa and still enjoys all the colonial advantages of yesteryear.
When Sékou Touré of Guinea decided in 1958 to leave the French colonial empire and opted for the country’s independence, the French colonial elite in Paris were furious.
And in a historic act of fury, the French administration in Guinea destroyed everything in the country which represented what they called the benefits from French colonisation.
Three thousand French left the country, taking all their property and destroying that which could not be moved.
Schools, nurseries and public administration buildings were razed to the ground.
Cars, books, medicine, research institute instruments and tractors were destroyed.
Horses and livestock on farms were killed and food in warehouses burned or poisoned.
The purpose of this outrageous act was to send a clear message to all other colonies that the consequences for spurning France were dire.
Following events in Guinea, fear slowly spread across all former French colonies.
No other African country found the courage to follow the example of Sékou Touré, whose slogan was: “We prefer freedom in poverty to opulence in slavery.”
And to ensure it retained all colonial prerogatives, just before France conceded to African demands for independence in the 1960s, it forced all its 14 former colonies (CFA countries) to sign a colonial pact.
The colonial pact demanded all French colonies in Africa pay tax for slavery and colonisation.
It is the colonial pact that obliged the African states to put 65 percent of their foreign currency reserves into the French Treasury, based on the convertibility, at a rigid exchange rate of the CFA, a currency France had created for them.
The 14 African states deposit another 20 percent for financial liabilities, making the dizzying total of 85 percent.
The African nations, therefore, have only access to 15 percent of their own money for national development in any given year.
If they are in need of extra money, as they always are, they have to borrow from their own 65 percent in the French Treasury at commercial rates.
And that is not all.
There is a cap on the credit extended to each member country equivalent to 20 percent of their public revenue in the preceding year. Even worse, when the French Franc loses its value, they devalue the CFA to adjust for the trade deficit at the expense of African countries.
Since 1961, Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Togo, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon have been effectively putting in US$500 billion every year into the French treasury. African leaders who resist are killed or become victims of coups.
Although the administration of the CFA currency was entrusted to a common central bank (comprising BCEAO and BEAC), these so-called African banks are only African in name.
The reality is they have no clout and are nothing more than huge bureaucratic institutions which have no monetary policies of their own. They exist to give the CFA countries the impression they too are masters of their own monetary destiny, which in reality is not the case.
The African CFA zone countries continue to this day to perpetuate a system put in place by their former colonial master.
It is also the colonial pact that demands that France has the first right to buy or reject any natural resources discovered in Francophone countries.
It’s only after France says, “I’m not interested,” that the African countries are allowed to seek other partners.
In the award of government contracts, French companies must be considered first and only after France’s right of first refusal can the poor countries look elsewhere.
As a result, in many of the French ex-colonies, all the major economical assets are in the hands of the French.
In Côte d’Ivoire, the jewel of the former French possessions in Africa, for example, outside parliament, almost all the major utilities – water, electricity, telephone, transport, ports and major banks – are run by French companies or have French interests. The same story subsists 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 March 2008, former French President Jacques Chirac said: “Without Africa, France will slide down into the rank of a Third (World) power.”
The pact also includes clauses that former colonies have an obligation to make French the official language of the country and the medium of instruction in education.
Through a sophisticated scheme of scholarships, grants, and ‘Defence Agreements’ attached to the Colonial Pact, Africans send their senior military officers for training in France.
The result is armies that are virtually commanded by French-trained officers.
Defence Agreements oblige Francophone states to maintain French military bases on their soil and these soldiers are ready to intervene in any Francophone African state to topple ‘recalcitrant’ leaders and replace them with more docile ones.
Of the 71 coups that happened in Africa in the last 54 years, 52 are from French former colonies.
Paris dictates the policies that these 14 countries must adopt.
Independence was thus nothing more than the transfer of the competence of the Elysée Palace (the seat of French presidential power) to the African presidents who owe allegiance to a master based in Paris and not to their own people over whom they govern.
It’s time for Africans to wake up!
By Dr. Amadioha Agbarakwe