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Published On: Wed, Jan 8th, 2020

West African Eco and the future of the Naira

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By ‘Tope Fasua

I believe Nigeria and any other interested nation which may have sent delegates everywhere to discuss how to put the Eco currency together for the purpose of integrating the West African economy, should be seeking redress – financial and otherwise – from France for the hijack of the idea. Whether we had a patent or copyright or not should not matter, as people had spent time on that concept. The name was coined somehow, and these countries had gone through much trouble building consensus, and chiseling out other modalities, with a view to going live with the idea this year, only for wily old France to jump on the idea and use it as another colonial crutch to further its racist aims. Now, the currency will have to be printed in France, and tethered to the Euro, whether countries like Nigeria like it or not. France will also dictate the way everything works and every modality. It’s just like getting colonised by France after being colonised by Britain. What an insult. It just cannot be right, can it?
Now, France is a very racist nation, even though we here don’t see it often. It is this racist attitude that leads to the regular meltdowns, whereby riots cripple the nation. Those riots are often led by generations of migrants from Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, and some of the black African colonies like Senegal, who have been traumatised for too long in France. France never wanted to grant independence to any African country, and from what we have seen with this Eco saga, it seems true that indeed the country gave the independence goat to African countries but held on to the rope. When guys like Mawuna Koutonin write that the presidential villa in Abidjan is owned by France and that Cote D’Ivoire merely pays rent, we sometimes feel he is going over the board. When Mrs. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, the beautiful former African Union (AU) Ambassador to the United States spoke about this self-same issue, she was relieved of her appointment. But for once we have found confirmation that all this while, at least, France had its own people (usually white), sitting on the board of the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) in Dakar, Senegal, with veto power in their suitcases, and that 50 per cent of the reserves of these countries had to be domiciled in the French Central Bank! They claim to be conceding these otherwise outrageous and utterly condescending conditions with the new move to the stolen Eco.
Why not another name? Why steal an idea in order to ‘do right’ by people whom you had traumatised for at least six decades? It could only be that France has not healed itself of the traumatising, oppressing state of mind. Imagine that upon granting ‘independence’ to their former colonies, the French could not bequeath the Franc, like the British bequeathed the Nigerian ‘pound’ and later allowed her colonies some more symbolic independence when we birthed the naira and Ghana, the cedi. The French had created a currency for her colonies, which it named CFA, or Colonies Francaises d’Afrique (French colonies of Africa), since 1945. The name later transmogrified to Communaute Financiere Africaine around 1960.
There is no way we should allow that country extend its tentacles to the rest of us who were never under its darker wings. I tell people that we should know how to count our blessings. Maybe the Brits – warts and all – were the best we could have hoped for out of the few bad options. For example when I visited Liberia in 2012, I was disappointed with the Americans, for the country was a sad representative of what the greatest country in the world could make of an African country. The Americans could have prevented the Liberian war. But even after the war, the Americans, through their NGOs, seem to be psychologically exploiting that country. One would have expected America to show the country just how to get things done properly. And even before the Liberian war, that country was only good for the exploitation of companies like Firestone Tires, the American company which owns the largest single piece of Liberian land. The people have always been wretched and beaten down.
The other Francophone African countries are only slightly better than Liberia (which in my view is the worst case in Africa). In all those countries, you could sense a lack of confidence among the citizens. Nigeria’s gregariousness stands us out in this regard. The French ‘left’ Africa alright but they took the self-esteem and dignity of the nations they colonised – especially the black Africans – along with them. Since they left, they only prop up guys like Felix Houphouet-Boigny (who figured himself to be a white man) and of late, Alassane Ouattara. These two gentlemen in the case of Cote D’Ivoire, have been used to do hatchet jobs on behalf of the colonial master. Boigny opposed the idea of African Unity when moved by Kwame Nkrumah in 1961, but for support from other countries. Boigny led Cote D’Ivoire for over 30 years for being a good lad. He died in office. France moved in troops to remove Professor Laurent Gbagbo and install Ouattara, while many of our ignorant African people cheered what they saw on CNN and elsewhere. I wept. Today, we can see Ouattara being used to steal an idea, and short-circuit the idea of West African integration. We must develop our inner eyes in Africa and stop being led by our noses. It’s amazing how we fall into similar traps over and over again. The same type of specie who fell for Gbagbo’s illegal ouster were the ones who hailed the killing of Gaddafi. Am I appalled or am I appalled?
The game of decolonisation is misunderstood by most of us Africans. Reading Neil Ferguson’s books I got the alternative history. So, we had nationalists who went through the motions of demanding independence for African nations but indeed we were their slaves. We were conquered in war, merged together at will and looted blind. I could even say we enjoyed some level of magnanimity from some of these colonial powers, for we too are used to waging wars amongst ourselves and taking slaves of the conquered. Anyone who cannot understand this has issues with the concept of fairness. In order to grasp this problem and make progress, the first thing to do is be honest. Many of us are educated but most are dishonest in our analysis of colonisation and decolonisation. All that jive, about why did the Brits not ask us before merging north and south, is what it is; mere jive. No one asks their houseboy what he will have for dinner, or where he needs to have his next vacation.
Anyhow, while all that was going on, world wars were taking place. Europe received its first pounding between 1914 and 1918 in the First World War. The U.S.A was physically too removed to be drawn in with the available technology of that time. Ditto between 1939 and 1944 when the second gory global episode took place. This relative advantage turned the U.S.A into the world leader, as she took the world war opportunity to sell loads of ammunition to the warring parties, especially Britain. As the war drew to an end, the U.S.A called the meetings of Bretton Woods, New Hampshire and set up the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other subsidiaries. The American dollar was announced as the global currency, to which other currencies should be pegged, while the dollar was backed by gold at $37 an ounce. The British pounds – which was the former global currency – took a shellacking, losing 60 per cent of its value overnight. That was how the British Empire collapsed. The Americans collapsed the empire and an American Empire emerged. These Caucasians never forget anything. The Americans never forgot the oppression they suffered under the British crown. They had to fight a revolutionary war to free themselves. White-on-white. That revolutionary war against the Brits, started in April 1775, led to the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and did not end until 1783.
The decolonisation of African countries was the next natural stage in bottling up Britain, and by extension France, Spain, Portugal and whoever else had colonial territories. U.S.A never took Liberia or the Phillipines very serious anyway, at least not in the way Britain and France made capitals out of their colonies, milking them for strength. So there you have it, let us tone down all the haughtiness and face the reality of our existence. France was more reluctant to hand off its African colonies and its strategy was cruder than that of Britain. It made those colonies sign all sorts of things. It even asked them to vote, and Guinea under Sekou Toure, Mali under Modibbo Keita and Algeria under Ahmed Ben Bella voted that they didn’t want colonisation. For that, the French destroyed everything substantial in Guinea. From DeGaulle, to Pompidou, Giscard D’Estaing, Mitterand, Chirac, Sarkozy to the present young man, Macron, French leaders have often voiced racist ideas.
Nigeria will be remiss to have anything to do with that country. More so, there are allegations that France has a hand in the destabilisation of the region, because most of the communication from Boko Haram come first from Alliance France Presse (AFP), plus that country has never given any of the affected countries any intelligence on the movement of terrorists and ammunition in that region. Sarkozy, for example, is alleged to have given the order for Gaddafi to be killed on the streets, even though everybody knows the latter financed his election with tens of millions of Euros. That joint venture between these ‘wise’ countries (UK, USA and France) has led not only to the total destruction of Libya but by extension the entire Africa has not known peace since. By all means, the fall of Gaddafi was the beginning of serious terrorism in Nigeria. I believe these three superpowers knew what they wanted to achieve by opening the route for ammunition when they took out Gaddafi. Smooth-talking Barack Obama says he regrets doing what he did but he should tell that to the thousands of children, women and old people that the coalition of mass murderers killed and which mainstream media like Aljazeera, CNN and co have covered up till today.
Macron, in June 2017, said he believed that Africa’s problem was ‘civilisational’, in response to a suggestion that a Marshall-Plan type of solution be offered to Africa. By Marshall Plan, it is meant that the same type of massive bailout given to Europe (especially France and UK) by the USA, after the Second World War be given to Africa to help her lift off. Not only did Macron wave it off, he rubbed insult into our injury. He probably prefers black Africa to be continually exploited for everything she has, just like his predecessors did. By ‘civilisational’, Macron meant we are a retarded lot, still living in a different, distant civilisation. Short of calling us underevolved Neanderthals! To explain further, he stated offhandedly how African women were having seven or eight children. There was no one around to tell him that in most of Africa, you wouldn’t find many of such practices and in Europe, until recently, the same practice occurred. A recent research (though disputed) shows that that index is only true for Niger Republic, and some of their cousins in northern Nigeria.
This is the background for the problem we have with the Eco currency, which France has jumped on with the assistance of Ouattara presently.
I repeat that we must never go into French slavery. One slavery is enough for a lifetime. Countries like France will not even offer you any tangible like the Chinese. But can the Eco even work? As a political currency, it cannot. We must give it a wide berth. Ghana may decide to go down that route because her management of the Ghana cedi has been disastrous. The convergence criteria that was set for the Eco (meaning the figures that countries must present in order to join) has not been met by any country. Only Togo seemed to be on course to have a single digit inflation, a fiscal deficit not more than 4 per cent of GDP, and tax revenue as 20 per cent of GDP etc. Nigeria is off the mark on most of the ten criteria, despite our large nominal GDP.
From the experience of the Euro – to which Macron’s Eco has now been unfortunately tethered – we saw how the currency almost unraveled but for Germany’s deep purse and determination. That the currency is still surviving today is due to fact that it serves Germany’s interests anyway. When Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain cooked their books and carried too much external loans, deficits and inflation, the Eurozone suddenly realised that there was no protocol to rein in a nation at default. A nation is not a bank or corporate. Yet a debt default by a nation within a monetary union, was a default by all, and once the financial markets and indeed the man on the streets lose confidence, the currency will tank and become worth less than the paper it is printed on. A great lesson learn in the Euro saga was that a Germany had it all sown tight – great economic indices, flat wages, which meant it produced at a discount in comparison to other countries in the union. Economic complexity, which means it had more knowledge quotient embedded in every product it exported, when compared with the rest. Greece, on the other extreme, only sold tourism. How can you match tourism with German machines? Both of them are not mates at all.
Nigeria may have to stand strong with her naira, in the event that every other West African nation foolishly joins the French Eco. That is if we cannot sue Macron for damages and theft. Standing strong means we must become a serious producing nation, and must figure economic complexity into what we do (how much knowledge quotient can we muster). This means a retraining of our youth to be producing machines. That means an adherence to excellence in everything we do because we will meet with resistance and a counterstrategy from France. We must produce what our neighbours cannot do without or resist. We must brace up and take strategic, productive and operational charge of the AfCFTA beyond merely attending wasteful conferences. We also must start by fulfilling our own people’s needs, just in case these countries will not accept any of our products. This could even be a push back against the closure of our borders. Sometimes we need this punch upside the jaw so that our brains may reset. Perhaps Macron and his predecessors are right about the black man. We just need to brace up, wake up and understand that our burden is to be twice as clean, twice as intelligent, twice as smart, twice as visionary, than everybody else. The burden will pay off in generations to come. Negligence means eventual extinction.

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