Africa’s CFA Franc Has Many Critics, but Alternatives Are Just as Thorny

Africa’s CFA Franc Has Many Critics, but Alternatives Are Just as Thorny
Activist Kemi Seba gestures during an interview, Paris, June 28, 2006 (AP photo by Michel Euler).

During a rally in Senegal’s capital last month, a fiery and prominent political activist, Kemi Seba, launched into his customary, extended harangue against France’s influence over its former African colonies.

As he criticized African leaders he said were pursuing French interests at the expense of their own citizens, Seba became especially impassioned discussing the continued reliance on the CFA franc, a currency backed by reserves held in France that is used by more than a dozen African countries. At one point, with cameras rolling, Seba said, “Here’s what I think about this money,” before setting a pale green 5,000 CFA note, worth about $9, on fire.

The crowd erupted in cheers, and word of Seba’s symbolic gesture quickly spread throughout the region. Bloomberg reported that thousands of like-minded West Africans expressed their support for Seba on social media; one Twitter user posted a photo of two 10,000 CFA notes in a frying pan, about to be doused in cooking oil.

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