In the last week, the most populous Francophone African country, the Democratic Republic of Congo celebrated 50 years of Independence. In 2010, a further 14 will celebrate this milestone, the roll call reads; Cameroon, Togo, Mali, Senegal, Madagascar, Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Chad, Central Africa Republic, Congo Brazzaville, Gabon and Mauritania.
However, just how independent are these nations, and how far have they come, and what is the future?
All the above except DR Congo, Mauritania, Madagascar still use the CFA Franc, divided up as the West African Franc, and the Central African Franc as their means of exchange. The use of a single currency in these countries, that is tied to the Euro, at CFA 655.96 = €1. What is still stipulated in this currency,over 65% of reserves must be held in Paris, so for instance whatever foreign earnings countries earn, 65% of them are held in France. This denies the countries from using their own earnings immediately, or preventing them from effecting their own monetary policy. Similarly, with the collapse of the Euro currency, a depreciation of the CFA Franc will accelerate inflation, which up until now has been low, as shown by the World Bank 2010 Global Business Outlook.
All the above countries bar Senegal have had experiences of political instability, and armed conflict. This has obviously stunted many development markers, and resulted in decades of lost potential. What is key is how they look to regain ground, are they doing it aggressively? The influence of the Chinese is beginning to supersede that of France in being the dominant economic partner for infrastructure development and resource extraction, but there must be more that should be done, especially with so many of their development markers being low, the next 50 years should not be ones of gradual development, but rapid development to realise the promise they all have.