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French domination of markets in Francophone Africa: Post-colonialism at its finest?

Kohnert, Dirk (2022): French domination of markets in Francophone Africa: Post-colonialism at its finest?

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Abstract

Francophone Africa has been dominated to date by the political, economic and cultural repercussions of France’s colonial rule. A major instrument to assert France's interests was the upkeep of a common monetary policy and currency, the CFA Franc. Although this has been increasingly resented by African politicians and economists, who wanted to replace it with a West African currency (the 'Eco') the CFA still prevails, due to the social network of French and African political leaders, the ‘messieurs Afrique’ who benefit from the system. The controversial international discussion concentrates on questions of sovereignty and formal political and economic questions. However, the rules of the informal sector proved to be at least as crucial in structuring the CFA-zone as the institutions and policies of the formal economic sector, including its monetary institutions. For decades, for example, prices of French imports were overpriced, due to protection by tied aid and other political and cultural non-tariff trade barriers. The cost of this rent-seeking was carried not only by the French Treasury, who guarantees the peg, but by the French and EU taxpayers, who financed budgetary bail-outs and development aid, and last, but not least, by the poorer African member countries and social strata. Although this applies strictly speaking only to the CFA zone, there are strong indicators that things haven't changed much since then for Francophone Africa in general. The repercussions of rent-seeking in Francophone Africa impact up to date negatively on economic performance. For example, growth levels have been significantly lower for two decades compared with Anglophone competitors.

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