France relinquished power in most of its African colonies in the 1960’s. One might argue that the UN and other newly formed multilateral bodies were behind this withdrawal. European countries left Africa, not willingly but with extreme reluctance, as they were conscious of the wealth in precious minerals and other raw materials that their presence in the continent accorded them. In the first place, the colonization of Africa was not with the aim of spreading European civilization and Christianity as it was famously glossed, but a ruse to spread European Imperialism as well as acquire raw materials to fuel the industrial revolution that started in Great Britain in the beginning of the 19th century. It is arguable that King Leopold of Belgium got the lion’s share with his snatching of the Congo. France, Britain, Germany and to a much smaller extent Italy got the spoils of the remains.
None of the former imperial power maintains as imposing a presence in Africa as France. In comparison to other African countries, French-Afrique countries such as Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Mali and Niger are considerably poorer. Citizens in these countries languish in abject poverty. It is arguable that such countries, with their abundance of natural resources should be economic success stories, following in the example of Botswana.
Post colonialists have observed that one of the roots of the myriads of problems plaguing Africa to this day is the hurriedly manner in which the colonial powers left the continent. In the Republic of Congo for instance, when the Belgians left in 1960, there were less than 20 college graduated in the country. The institutions and infrastructure which colonial powers had built were primarily of an extractive nature. The focus was to direct raw materials out of Africa, into the Europe and America. With their exit, the continent was left with these institutions that could not favor economic growth. In the case of France however, they went a step further with the formulation of the French Colonial Pact, a tool aimed at continuing the extractive nature of the colonial era.
What stands out from this pact is the requirement of these countries to use a common currency (the CFA Franc) that is controlled directly from the French central bank in Paris. This currency was pegged to the Franc, and in 2002 with the introduction of the Euro, it was later tagged to the same. This means that 14 African countries do not have an independent monetary policy. They do not hold the right to determine details of how much currency to release into their economy or to revalue their currency at will. All decisions pertaining monetary policy are controlled from Paris. These countries are also obliged to deposit 65% of their foreign reserves in the French central bank. More so, these countries cannot access this money at will. In fact, if they need more than 20% of this 65%, they take it as a loan from France at the prevailing market rate.
Another detail of this pact is that French companies hold first right for all public tenders that these governments put up for the public. This means all public projects with need of foreign financing must be first presented to French interests before any other party. There was uproar in Cote d’Ivoire when a French company quoted 3 times higher than a Chinese company on a bridge construction project. The contract was awarded to the French company by the directive of the colonial pact. This and many others are a slap in the face of these economies, which are forced to comply with these exorbitant terms because of a destructive pact signed more than 60 years ago.
Africa continues to prop up the French economy while its people languish in abject poverty. This plays into the narrative of an imbalance between the global north and south, between the colonizer and the colonized, that has persisted much to the detriment of humanity. The international community has kept a blind eye to this atrocity. It is perplexing that a country at the helm of the democracy promulgation agenda continues to be marred in this intricate web of exploitation. For now, France continues to hold a place in the highest echelons of the world politics and economics, with permanent seats in the G7 and the UN Security Council, while the countries on whose backs her economy was cemented sinks lower and lower. In the words of the French president Jacquies Chirac, “Without Africa, France will slide down into the rank of a third world power”.