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Money, Freedom, a Story of the CFA Franc

Money, Freedom, a Story of the CFA Franc

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“Whoever controls the currency controls production, exchange, and consumption.” — Economist and essayist Ndongo Samba Sylla

Can a country be truly independent if its currency is still controlled by its former colonial oppressors? In MONEY, FREEDOM, A STORY OF THE CFA FRANC, director Katy Lena Ndiaye traces the history of a currency whose roots lie in compensation for slave owners. Originally used by countries in Central and West Africa, the currency was pegged to the French franc. While France publicly touted the CFA as a benefit to developing nations, it effectively robbed them of the ability to set their own monetary policy.

MONEY, FREEDOM, A STORY OF THE CFA FRANC features rich archival footage and a wealth of interviews with economists, former politicians (including finance ministers and a prime minister), bankers — and even a colonial administrator. They discuss the CFA franc in the context of a colonial system that not only destroyed local governance and economic structures, but continues to prevent West African nations from re-imagining an economy that benefits Africans first. And they explore the devastating effects of the currency’s devaluation and the IMF’s austerity programs in the mid-1990s, followed by its overnight dramatic strengthening less than a decade later, when it became tied to the Euro—with no input from Africans.

Now, the CFA is set to finally be phased, out, replaced by a new currency called the ECO. But will the change be anything more than cosmetic?

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