Most sub-Saharan African French colonies got formal independence in the 1960s. But their economies have progressed little, leaving most people in poverty, and generally worse off than in other post-colonial African economies.

Pre-Second World War colonial monetary arrangements were consolidated into the Colonies Françaises d’Afrique (CFA) franc zone set up on 26 December 1945. Decolonization became inevitable after France’s defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and withdrawal from Algeria less than a decade later.

France insisted decolonization must involve ‘interdependence’ – presumably asymmetric, instead of between equals – not true ‘sovereignty’. For colonies to get ‘independence’, France required membership of Communauté Française d’Afrique (still CFA) – created in 1958, replacing Colonies with Communauté.

CFA countries are now in two currency unions. Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo belong to UEMOA, the French acronym for the West African Economic and Monetary Union.

Read the article by Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram