African Countries Still Pay $500B In Colonial Taxes To France Each Year

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli
colonial taxes
France continues to hold 50% of the foreign reserves of 12 African countries in its central bank. These deposits are comparable to colonial taxes. French President Emmanuel Macron speaks with Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita during the opening session of G5 Shel force summit in Bamako, Mali, Sunday, July 2, 2017. (AP PhotoBaba Ahmed)

France continues to stall francophone Africa’s economic development by holding 50 percent of the foreign reserves of 12 countries in its central bank, enriching itself with Africa’s wealth.

These compulsory deposits are considered by many Africans to be colonial taxes, amounting to around $500 billion each year, according to The People’s News Africa.

The deposits form part of a colonial-era policy involving the existence and maintenance of the CFA franc, a currency pegged to the euro that is used throughout the region by 14 African countries, 12 of which were French colonies.

The CFA franc was originally created by France in the late 1940s to serve as a legal tender in the European country’s then-African colonies, Mediapart reports.

The African former colonies impacted by these colonial taxes include Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, and Gabon.

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During colonization, African countries had to place all their financial reserves in the French treasury. That requirement has decreased over the years, with 50 percent of their foreign exchange being kept at the bank of France since 2005, Roape reports.

France holds 50 percent of these countries’ foreign reserves to guarantee that the CFA franc stays convertible into euros at a fixed exchange rate, according to VoiceofAfrica.

Colonial taxes continue to hold francophone Africa hostage

Some argue that France’s control over the CFA franc ensures financial stability within the region. Others say that the currency is an unnecessary colonial relic that stalls economic development in the individual countries and the region as a whole.

Senegalese economist Ndongo Samba Sylla advocates for the elimination of the CFA franc.

“For those hoping to export competitive products, obtain affordable credit, work for the integration of continental trade, or fight for an Africa free from imperialist control, the CFA franc is an anachronism demanding orderly and methodical elimination,” Sylla argues.

The African countries using the CFA franc have no say in deciding key monetary policies that affect their people, as these are determined by European countries as part of the European Union, according to the BBC.

The CFA franc is considered by some to be a barrier to industrialization and economic development and does not stimulate trade integration between fellow francophone nations or allow banks to provide adequate credit for their economies.

In 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron apologized for some aspects of France’s colonial past. He called for the CFA franc to be gradually phased out, acknowledging the need for francophone Africa to be given its economic independence, according to Politico.

Macron may have paid lip service to the idea but the “colonial taxes” remain in place.