© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Burkina Faso’s interim President Ibrahim Traore attends a meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin following the Russia-Africa summit in Saint Petersburg, Russia, July 29, 2023. Alexander Ryumin/TASS Host Photo Agency via REUTERS/File Ph
By Joe Bavier and Boureima Balima
JOHANNESBURG/NIAMEY (Reuters) – Days after Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger announced last month they were quitting the West Africa political union ECOWAS, Burkina Faso’s military ruler Ibrahim Traore was already naming his next target: the region’s CFA franc currency.
“It’s not just the currency. Anything that maintains us in slavery, we’ll break those bonds,” the 35-year-old army captain turned coup leader said in an interview, posted on YouTube.
The three countries jointly announced on Jan. 28 they were pulling out of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) after it pressured them to restore constitutional order following a string of coups.
Having already kicked out French soldiers and rolled back a U.N. mission in Mali, these states have consistently shown they value sovereignty over expediency.
Their attitude towards the euro-pegged CFA franc appears no different, although economists and experts say dumping the CFA franc would be riskier and significantly more complicated than withdrawing from ECOWAS, a move seen as a bold, if potentially ill-advised, act of defiance.
Last November, the finance ministers of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger said they would weigh the option of setting up a monetary union and top officials from all three countries have, to varying degrees, voiced support for abandoning the currency.
The head of the Niger junta, Abdourahamane Tiani, said in an interview on state television on Sunday that abandoning the CFA franc would be a sign of sovereignty and a necessary step in moving away from French “colonisation”.
To do so, however, would mean much more than simply printing new banknotes.
A newly created central bank would need to manage a delicate transition away from the CFA franc, formulate monetary policy, and decide what to do about more than $4.6 billion in outstanding CFA-denominated regional bonds.
‘THE FRENCH ROBBED US’
The CFA franc currencies – one West African and another for Central Africa – sit at the heart of an emotional debate over sovereignty and development in French-speaking Africa.
Proponents hail the CFA franc’s peg to the euro as a guarantee of macroeconomic stability in one of the world’s…