How much longer will the fable of the CFA Franc be told in Africa?

How much longer will the fable of the CFA Franc be told in Africa?

“The CFA Franc is a hot potato that our leaders have been passing on for decades without really wanting to confront the issue. One day we will have to look at this story more closely. »

This sentence, pronounced by Thierry Amougou, Cameroonian economist, professor at UCLouvain, caused a spark. Until then, Katy Ndiaye, like many of her Senegalese compatriots and even like many African nationals, manipulated this currency without really thinking about it, or questioning its implications and its purpose.

In his mind, his “country was free, independent and absolutely no longer linked to French colonial history”. However, the Greek crisis has revived the painful memory of the devaluation which hit the CFA zone heavily in the 1970s. How can we explain that more than 60 years after independence, so many countries continue to see their economies governed from France? This question is at the heart of the film: “Money, freedom, a history of the CFA Franc” which is released in theaters this Thursday in Brussels.

At the time, the journalist worked for the show Southern Reflections from TV5 Monde. The idea remains in the back of his mind. I started pulling threads, did some research and met this economist. All the other meetings flowed from this one.” The idea for a film emerges quite quickly in his mind, but he still lacks the common thread that will allow him to organize the quest and its story. The exit of book Afrotopia by the Senegalese economist and philosopher Felwine Sarr offers him the opportunity to delve into the subject over the course of a long interview.

“The film is crossed by big and small History”

Following this, his film welcomes a wide variety of speakers from different countries. “I didn’t want a cold documentary, made up only of interviews. I wanted a film traversed by big and small History, nourished by different experiences and emotions. » With the desire to take the film towards a cinema aesthetic.

“In 2017, I dove into the Ina archives and came across The Plowman and his children, by searching for interviews with Senghor. I kept coming back to this archive from 1963 because this fable symbolized, in my eyes, the relations of the French empire (aka the plowman, Editor’s note) who refuses to disappear and who, to survive himself, entrusts his secret to his children” (aka African countries, Editor’s note).

Katy Lena Ndiaye does not want “make a responsible film but trace a collective history. » She says to herself “stunned to find out so late” in his life “the history of this currency”the result is a film about legacies which reminds us that everyone must do their part.

“The CFA Franc is a fable”

“The CFA Franc is a fable. We live with these multiple fables: the fable of development, the fable of growth, that was also the point of my film: to talk about these lies, because a fable is a lie. They also say: he is making up stories. »

This analogy guided her on the path of a tale still taught today which testifies to the survival of the link with France in many areas”. Through this metaphor, there is the idea of ​​the story that we tell to charm or lull our audience. Like when we praise the merits of the CFA Franc for the African countries in the area.

The film combines the words of economists Ndongo Samba Sylla, Kako Nubukpo, Martial Ze Belinga and Felwine Sarr: all its speakers are fascinating and complementary, even if the environment appears decidedly very masculine. It must be said that the three women contacted by Katy Ndiaye ultimately all declined for various reasons. Economic and political power, the academic world remain very masculine, it’s true, but I also wanted to give the floor to people who had been witnesses and actors in this history and not to people who had a speech only activist today » underlines Katy Ndiaye.

As for the former Prime Minister of Benin, Lionel Zinsou, he accepted to my great surprise. He represents this generation of fathers of independence. Senghor was his godfather and his model. It was a very interesting meeting. He was very honest and generous even though the results of France Africa are sometimes painful. Everyone, through what they say about the CFA Franc, tells themselves and tells a part of their life, their childhood. Everyone sets out their values ​​and evokes their heritage. » Through these personalities a rich portrait of Africa emerges.

Very curious rules of the game

Thanks to different maps that follow the fluctuations of the monetary zone over time, the film is very educational. It shows to what extent the weight of the CFA Franc continues to weigh on the economy of many African countries. “Some countries are still resolving problems encountered in Senegal in the 1970s”underlines Katy Ndiaye.

The inadequacy or carelessness of part of the African elites added “that it was a poisoned chalice” has the consequence that even today the finances of 14 countries are subservient to those of France and weighed down. “These rules of the game imposed by the opponent already explain the outcome of the fight. The film helps to re-explain all of this. We are on the side of the victims, but we did not come to complain. We just want to show that the dice were loaded from the start. »

At the end of the film, some spectators are very angry, notes the director. This observation makes me so sad. I made the film that I would have liked to see when I was a teenager and I asked myself a lot of questions about the disappointments of my country. Money is not at all external to our lives but is, on the contrary, at the heart of our existence. I started with the desire to tell the story of the CFA Franc, but it became a film about the heritage shared between Africa and the rest of the world. The CFA is the crux of the story, but it goes well beyond that. The questioning on the future of these territories is addressed as much to the Congo as to Rwanda, or to Belgium”concludes the filmmaker.

Interview: Karin Tshidimba