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African Monetary Union Stirs Criticism of France

Former French colonies use a franc tied to the euro
African Monetary Union Stirs Criticism of France
Photograph by Godong/UIG via Getty Images

A hoard of cash sits in the Bank of France: $20 billion in African money held in trust by the French government and earning just 0.75 percent interest. Now economists and politicians from 14 Central and West African countries say they want their funds returned and an arrangement dating back to the days of France’s colonial empire ended.

France holds the money to guarantee that the CFA franc, the currency used in the 14 nations, stays convertible into euros at a fixed exchange rate of 655.957. The compulsory deposits started more than half a century ago, when the then-colonies had to place all their financial reserves in the French Treasury. The deposit requirement has dropped over the decades: Today the African members entrust 50 percent of their reserves to Paris.