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Posted March 07, 2023

Sean Ring

By Sean Ring

The Global South Has Had Enough of Its Former Colonial Masters

  • The rift between the Global South and its former colonial masters is widening.
  • The Global South feels emboldened now that the unipolar world is ending.
  • Russia and China race to fill the void in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Happy Tuesday on this bright, chilly morning in Northern Italy.

Yesterday was a doozy-whopper for French President Emmanuel Macron.

He went down to the Congo and got tongue-lashed for this trouble. In case you didn’t know, the French never really let go of its African colonies.

In fact, there were rumors this policy was no accident.

Since Germany was dominating the European Union, the only way for France to expand was by going south.

For years, France has kept West and Central Africa’s gold safely in the confines of the Banque de France. Those countries also spoke French. 

It was also convenient for the French to send the poorer-performing students of its famous “ecoles” to Africa. It’s like bankers who aren’t particularly good in their home countries and so are sent abroad. The most famous is the FILTH - Failed In London, Try Hongkong.

That world is ending for France.

I pick on France because its colonialism is the most hidden form… and is about to be revealed to the world.

I’ll give you a head start with this column.

Colonialism in General

You must know I’m no bleeding-heart liberal who automatically loathes empire.

And though I think “empire” rhymes with “vampire” for a reason, I love reading about the British Empire. I’m a huge fan of Victorian literature and Kipling.

Sure, there was a “Scramble for Africa.” And some of it was plain horrific.

For instance, there’s no excuse for what Leopold II did in the Congo.

And though he wasn’t a racist per se, Englishman Cecil Rhodes said in 1877 while a student at Oxford, "I contend that we are the first race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit, the better it is for the human race. I contend that every acre added to our territory means the birth of more of the English race who otherwise would not be brought into existence."

But while the Rhodes and the British worked on the Cape to Cairo telegraph line, the French went west to east.

France’s African Model

Here’s a list of France’s former west African colonies:

  • Timbuktu in French Sudan
  • Ivory Coast
  • Dahomey (currently Benin)
  • French Sudan (currently Mali)
  • Guinea
  • Mauritania
  • Niger
  • Senegal
  • Upper Volta (currently Burkina Faso)
  • French Togoland (currently Togo)
  • Enclaves of Forcados and Badjibo (in modern Nigeria)

Instead of old-fashioned colonialism, the French use currency to control their former and newer “member states.”

The CFA franc is the common name for two currencies used in several countries in West and Central Africa: the West African CFA franc and the Central African CFA franc.

The Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) manages the West African CFA franc, and the Bank of Central African States (BEAC) operates the Central African CFA franc. The two banks are responsible for issuing the currency, maintaining its stability, and regulating its supply.

The CFA Franc is used by Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), and Mali. Niger, Senegal, and Togo in West Africa, and Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon in Central Africa.

The franc has been controversial, with some critics arguing that it has contributed to the economic dependence of African countries on their former colonial powers, France most especially. Others say that the currency's stability has positively promoted trade and investment in the region.

Both francs are pegged to the euro. France also requires CFA member countries to deposit at least 50% of their foreign exchange reserves — currently about €10 billion ($11.19 billion) — into a special account in the French treasury.

And therein lies the problems.

First, why must these countries deposit half their FX reserves with France? What possible economic sense does this make?

Second, with the francs pegged to the euro, prices are artificially higher than they otherwise would be. And obviously, these currencies aren’t freely floating, which means they can’t devalue in times of high stress.

Also, in “normal” times, the euro’s interest rates would be higher, adding to Africa's already prohibitive cost of capital.

The Italian Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, criticized Macron and France for exploiting Africa. Watch the video here. It’s fabulous.

SJN

Credit: DW

Russia and China See an Opening

With West and Central Africans planning to do away with the CFA franc and other parts of the continent demanding autonomy, Russia and China see an opening.

South Africa joined Russia in naval drills last week.

And while the US claimed victory at the UN vote to condemn Russia vis-a-vis Ukraine, a closer look at the vote shows the Global South mostly abstained. (Brazil, a member of the BRICs, was a surprise. But it looks like Lula is taking a different path than before.)

SJN

Credit: UN News Centre

While in India, Sergei Lavrov alleged the USG threatened the developing world if they didn’t vote the USG’s way.

It’s not so much that Russia and China are great; they’re not seen as threatening as the West. My, how times have changed!

The Tongue-Lashing

All this leads to Le Petit Roi getting schooled at a press conference with the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It was a remarkable sight. Watch it here.

President Félix Tshisekedi didn’t allow Macron to escape his hole gracefully.

Macron had tried to say that when a French journalist is rude, it’s not the position of France.

Then, Tshisekedi said, “It wasn’t a journalist. It was your foreign minister!”

He said he wanted France to look at his country as equal partners and not paternalistically.

It was a master class in firm diplomacy. But I’m sure Macron feels embarrassed.

Wrap Up

The Global South is looking for new partnerships because the old ones only enrich a few of the elite.

Russia and China were primed to step in simply because they weren’t Africa’s colonial oppressors—new faces and ideas to replace the ideas that haven’t worked.

It’s the new bifurcation of world trade and may be the beginning of a new paradigm.

Until tomorrow.

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