On February 21 this year, the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) came out with a deadline to introduce a single currency programme for the sub region. The single currency, we are told, will remove trade and monetary barriers and, ultimately, improve the economies of the West African states.
With a population of about 350 million people going on to 500 million by 2038, and with a total GDP of about $600 billion to date, it seems this idea is good to go due to availability of viable market for goods produced by the industries in the region.
I was only hoping our political leaders have examined all obstacles that would derail this programme and make the region poorer than ever.
Apart from the convergence criteria of having single digit inflation of 5% or less, another major problem I see will come from the Francophone countries. How free and committed will they be to this ECOWAS unified economy programme?
There is need to worry because of their entrenched allegiance to, and the total surrender of the management of their economies to France. The big issue is this problem of paying Colonial Tax annually to this European country.
This is the payment of debt for the benefit of French colonisation. Under this colonial pact, all former French colonies are to put 85% of their foreign reserves into the France Central Bank. Fourteen African Francophone countries continue to pay this colonial tax of $500 billion annually, as at 2017, working out to be an average of about $35 billion per country. In March 2008, former French President Jacques Chirac was alleged to have said: “Without Africa, France will slide down into the ranks of a third world power.” 65% of the African countries’ foreign reserves are held in operation accounts, and 20% to cover financial liabilities.
The eleven main components of this continued colonisation pact, which includes 1). The compulsory payment of 85% of foreign reveres into the French Treasury; are 2). There is automatic confiscation of national reserves of all the fourteen Francophone countries by France, and a credit cap equivalent to 20% of the country’s public revenue in the preceding year. Only 15% of the amounts deposited by these countries can be accessed every year. If a country needs more than that, it must borrow from its own money in the French Treasury, at commercial rates. 3). France has got the first right to buy any natural resources found in the land of its ex-colonies. Only when it refuses, can that country look for another buyer. 4). Priority must be given to French interests and companies in public procurement and public bidding. Meaning in the award of government contracts, French companies must be considered first. 5). Exclusive right to supply military equipment and train the country’s military officers. 6). France has got the sole right to pre-deploy its troops and intervene militarily in an ex-colony to protect its interests. 7). Obligation to make French the official language of the ex-colony and its language of education. 8). Obligation to use France colonial money. 9) Obligation to send France annual balance and reserve reports, for without the report, no money. 10). Renunciation to enter into military alliance with any other country unless authorised by France and 11). Obligation to ally with France in situations of war or global crises.
With these mandated obligations, it will be very difficult to have a united currency for West Africa with Francophone countries on board.
The total GDP of West African states is said to be about $600 billion, and with about nine Francophone countries in this sub-region, about $315 billion will be repatriated from West Africa to France every year.
How can the Eco hold out on $285 billion while it has a budget of $600 billion to work with?
I hope the leadership in West Africa or ECOWAS will rethink this and consider how we can operate a unified economy with France taking the role of deciding how we run our affairs, and, at the same time, compelling us to ship about 85% of our foreign reserves to France every year.
The Francophone countries must do well to wean themselves from France if this single currency is to succeed. And, even after that, I will suggest that we need not take a leap into this. Let us take a cue from the Euro and be mindful of the dangers unified economies can pose to otherwise single strong ones.
It will be appropriate that only the strong economies must unite first and work along a single currency until they grow stronger, then, and only then, should they be invited on board the next strongest economies.
While this is going on, the powerful economies must help the weaker ones to grow, so that at the time that all West African nations come under one unified economy and currency, we shall have a very powerful one, with a currency which would rub shoulders with other world hard currencies.
As it is now, if we attempt bringing on board these economically colonised but independent Francophone countries, we shall have serious problems, economically and socially.
France will always be laughing to its treasury every year, while we shall be grumbling seriously, not knowing how to manage our affairs.
Hon. Daniel Dugan