So France won the world cup! Living in Belgium, it’s been a little hard to celebrate the win of the team I fell in love with this world cup because the Belgians are hella bitter about losing that semi final, but that’s not what we are here to talk about.
Now, remember my reasons for supporting France, because Africa? Well it has become a huge political debate of French identity and its relationship with Africa. My fav Trevor Noah got caught in it with the French ambassador writing him to rebuke his celebration of the French victory as an African victory. I am here today to shed some light onto the historical context of this debate, the completely non- coincidental reason why the french team is 80% black.
Most people know that France has a long and dark history in Africa but what they do not know is that French influence is still ongoing to this day.
To this day, it can be argued former French colonies on the African continent are worse off than former British colonies. The experience of French colonialism was very different from British colonialism. While they were all white supremacists who looted our countries, the French played a much more long term game in their domination. Because they knew eventually their time was going to be up, they set themselves up to continue to benefit from their former colonies long after.
The beginning of it all…
To start of on giving Guinea its independence in 1958, the French staged a huge walkout of the country taking all their property and destroying everything they deemed to have built. They destroyed schools, nurseries, public administration buildings, cars, books you name it. In effect they were sending a message to all other colonies that the consequences for rejecting France would be high. Sekou Toure, the first president of Guinea and a pan Africanist, was the center of this crisis. He was famously quoted saying “It is better to be poor and free, than to live in opulence and be a slave.”
However everyone else coming after them was sufficiently terrified and instead started negotiating terms with France for their independence. To this day 14 African countries; Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Togo, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville and Gabon, are in a colonial pact or Cooperation Accords with France with terms that hugely benefit the French and keep the countries on a leash. Here is how it works.
Sekou Toure on the cover of Time magazine in 1959
The former French colonies all pay a sort of tax to France. It is like a “thank you for building our country” type of thing. The amount of this debt varies depending on what country is paying the debt and how its infrastructure was developed. The first country to agree to this, Togo ended up paying close to 40% of the country budget in 1963, consequently bankrupting the country and placing them in deep debt, that just became a cycle they have not gotten out of.
In addition, these countries all deposit their national monetary reserves into France’s central bank. France has held the national reserves of these 14 African countries since 1961. It is estimated that France now holds nearly $500 billion of African countries’ money in its treasury which essentially keeps France afloat debt wise. Moreover, the African countries do not have access to this money. France allows them to access only 15 percent of the money in any given year and to borrow from France the rest at commercial rates while the remaining 85 percent of their own money is held hostage by the French Treasury. To add salt to the wound the Francophone countries never developed their own currencies. They use what is called the CFA franc which is guaranteed by the French treasury. All this means is that they do not control their own monetary policies and remain fiscally tied to France.
Francophone countries are also in an agreement to give preference to French interests and companies in the field of public procurement and public bidding in their countries. According to government contracts, French companies must be considered first and only after that can Africans connect with other foreign companies and it does not matter what the best option is for the country. As a consequence, in many French ex-colonies all the major economic assets are in French hands. For example, in Côte d’Ivoire French companies own and control all the major utilities – water, electricity, telephone, transport, ports and major banks. The same situation exists in the field of commerce, construction and agriculture. In mining the French have dibs on all the new find of natural resources as well and for this one, they are not allowed to seek other partners.
If you thought this was it, you are dead wrong. Check out part 2 of this piece where we talk about cultural control and military control the French still exert over their colonies.
In the meantime, I will be over here following the whole French team on instagram. Their celebratory mood is infectious and yo can we now just already adopt Antoine Griezemann? The way he has been getting down to these Afrobeats and coupe decale with Pogba and crew is hilarious. He looks like he could really get some fufu and goat meat and I am here for it! Check him out on his instagram here. You are welcome to the fam OluwaGriezemann!
Read more about all of this here