by Philippe Lemoine
Monday, 21
November 2022
Factcheck
11:49

Giorgia Meloni is wrong about French ‘colonialism’

A viral video misrepresents France's ties with Africa
by Philippe Lemoine
Giorgia Meloni holds up a CFA Franc note in a 2019 interview.

A video has recently been making the rounds on social media in which Giorgia Meloni, the Italian Prime Minister, accuses France of using the CFA franc to pursue a neo-colonialist policy toward Africa. More specifically, she claims that France prints what she calls “colonial money” for 14 African nations, in return for which they are forced to pay 50% of the proceeds of their exports to France. 

Dutch commentator Eva Vlaardingerbroek suggested that Meloni was responding to Emmanuel Macron’s criticisms during the recent spat between France and Italy about immigration. This interpretation was lapped up entirely uncritically by a MailOnline article yesterday, which did not provide a date for the interview. The video was actually recorded in 2019. Regardless of the context, however, what Meloni says is mostly nonsense.


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The CFA franc is a currency — technically two different currencies, but let’s not split hairs — used by 14 African countries. While most of them used to be French colonies, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau were not, so even the claim that it’s a colonial legacy, while largely true, is somewhat misleading. 

Members of the CFA franc zone are required to deposit at least 50% of their foreign reserves in a current account at the French Treasury, which in exchange guarantees the unlimited convertibility of the CFA franc to the euro at a fixed parity. However, this doesn’t mean that France gets 50% of their export revenues, any more than your bank owns the money you deposit in your account. 

Not only does France not own those reserves, it pays interests on them. If the participating central banks didn’t have to deposit their foreign reserves at the French Treasury, they would have to be placed in safe assets. The returns from this would be just as low or even lower than what they currently earn at the French Treasury. What’s more, on top of unlimited convertibility at a fixed parity, African central banks can get advances from the French Treasury.

There are serious arguments against the CFA franc, which has both advantages and disadvantages, but the claims Meloni makes in the video have no merit whatsoever. She just repeats the myth that France imposes a currency on African countries and enriches itself in the process by making them pay a “colonial tax”.

The notion that France is rich because it plunders the CFA franc zone, while a common trope in some circles, is misleading even at surface level. The 14 countries in the zone have a combined GDP that is less than 10% of that of France, and the zone accounts for about 4% of France’s international trade. There are plenty of things to criticise about Françafrique, as the French zone of influence in Africa is often called, but these falsehoods about the region’s currency are not among them.

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Lesley Keay
Lesley Keay
18 days ago

The author of this article completely ignores Meloni’s main point which is that it is better to support African (or any other Third World) countries to retain their young people and help their economies develop and grow.

Paul Coffey
Paul Coffey
18 days ago

I presume the author is not trying to state that the Franc CFA gives France no benefit? That the French government are working purely altruistically and only for the benefit of Africa?
France wants to keep its influence with Françafrique and its behaviour in the lead up to the Rwandan Genocide and the Libyan civil war, to name but 2 examples, was reprehensible.
While Meloni is bending the truth, maybe to breaking point, France and other European countries activities in Africa need more criticism. There is more than a grain of truth in what she says when she accuses France of exploiting its relationship with ex-colonies.

Last edited 18 days ago by Paul Coffey
Nicks B
Nicks B
18 days ago
Reply to  Paul Coffey

Lemoine neither praises the French government nor discussed Françafrique. He merely points out Meloni’s inaccuracies.
Not every article must be about everything at once.
Btw, Libya and Rwanda never were French colonies, nor are they using CFA Francs.
See Paul, Hell is paved with dishonest takes mixing and obfuscating everything.

Paul Coffey
Paul Coffey
18 days ago
Reply to  Nicks B

Everyone knows that Libya & Rwanda weren’t French colonies nor use CFA Francs, as everyone knows France behaved badly in relation to both. France, Britain and the US are responsible for the current state of Libya & France’s inaction in Rwanda was deplorable.
The author points out Meloni’s inaccurancies as if there is nothing to her accusation that France benefits from the CFA. That is not a ‘nonsense’ accusation as the author implies.

Tudval Stone
Tudval Stone
18 days ago

We know exactly what she meant. France controls their currecy and benefits by keeping those deposits and their gold in their vaults. They’ll never see it back. Pays interest? LOL, how much is that these days, 0.01%?

william nye
william nye
17 days ago

I have to take exception to the article’s claim that the banks do not “own” the deposits. The recession of 2008 proved otherwise as banks around the world froze depositors accounts to prevent failure, in actuality confiscating the money.

Chris W
Chris W
18 days ago

What a great little article. I am always on the lookout for som French-bashing but this has put me off my stride. Very informative.

Ahmad Ahmed
Ahmad Ahmed
17 days ago

Come on, she’s 100% correct about France. Without Africa, France would be a third world country just like all Europe. To this day the colonialist are still practicing colonialism in Africa. We can go look into history about the roman empire, without north Africa the roman empire would have not existed, it was Africa that was the breadbasket of the roman empire.

Last edited 17 days ago by Ahmad Ahmed
Corey o,Connor
Corey o,Connor
17 days ago

Banks seize funds all the time. France I am sure benefits and so does Africa.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
17 days ago

Never mind the facts, just feel the rhetoric!

Pierre Whalon
Pierre Whalon
18 days ago

Thank you for correcting Meloni’s libel.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
16 days ago
Reply to  Pierre Whalon

There is a way to counter libel. Has France done so?