Will France Derail West Africa's Common Currency?
In 2019, the first currency union in Africa seemed poised to become a reality – until an unexpected intervention by Emmanuel Macron disrupted the process. Macron has said he wants to examine France’s legacy in Africa and establish a new relationship with its former colonies, but his actions speak louder than his words.
YAOUNDÉ – An unprecedented Africa-France summit took place at the beginning of October in Montpellier, France. For the first time since these summits began in 1973, no African heads of state were invited. Instead, French President Emmanuel Macron held discussions with students, entrepreneurs, artists, and athletes. The purpose of the gathering was to find ways to “rebuild” the relationship between France and Africa, especially in light of growing anti-French sentiment in many Francophone countries across the continent.
But there are reasons to question the sincerity of France’s initiative to reset relations with its former African colonies, particularly given Macron’s intervention in the creation of a new shared currency for West Africa.
In June 2019, after nearly 30 years of discussion and multiple missed deadlines, the 15 members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) announced that their planned new currency, dubbed the eco, would be introduced in 2020. But at a joint news conference that December with President Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast, Macron declared that in 2020, the eight French-speaking West African countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo) would retire their shared currency, the West African CFA franc, and replace it with a new currency – also called the eco. This statement surprised the other seven ECOWAS countries, which are primarily Anglophone, since it directly contradicted the roadmap for a new currency set out only six months before.