The CFA franc (French: franc CFA, [f se?f?], Franc of the Financial Community of Africa, originally Franc of the French Colonies in Africa, or colloquially franc; abbreviation: F.CFA) is the name of two currencies, the West African CFA franc, used in eight West African countries, and the Central African CFA franc, used in six Central African countries. Although separate, the two CFA franc currencies have always been at parity and are effectively interchangeable. The ISO currency codes are XAF for the Central African CFA franc and XOF for the West African CFA franc. On 22 December 2019, it was announced that the West African currency would be reformed and replaced by an independent currency to be called Eco.
CFA francs are used in fourteen countries: twelve nations formerly ruled by France in West and Central Africa (excluding Guinea and Mauritania, which withdrew), plus Guinea-Bissau (a former Portuguese colony), and Equatorial Guinea (a former Spanish colony). These fourteen countries have a combined population of 193.1 million people (as of 2021), and a combined GDP of US$283.0 billion (as of 2021). The ISO currency codes are XAF for the Central African CFA franc and XOF for the West African CFA franc.
The currency has been criticized for making economic planning for the developing countries of French West Africa all but impossible since the CFA's value is pegged to the euro (whose monetary policy is set by the European Central Bank). Others disagree and argue that the CFA "helps stabilize the national currencies of Franc Zone member-countries and greatly facilitates the flow of exports and imports between France and the member-countries". The European Union's own assessment of the CFA's link to the euro, carried out in 2008, noted that "benefits from economic integration within each of the two monetary unions of the CFA franc zone, and even more so between them, remained remarkably low" but that "the peg to the French franc and, since 1999, to the euro as exchange rate anchor is usually found to have had favourable effects in the region in terms of macroeconomic stability".
Between 1945 and 1958, CFA stood for Colonies françaises d'Afrique ("French colonies of Africa"); then for Communauté française d'Afrique ("French Community of Africa") between 1958 (establishment of the French Fifth Republic) and the independence of these African countries at the beginning of the 1960s. Since independence, CFA is taken to mean Communauté Financière Africaine (African Financial Community), but in actual use, the term can have two meanings (see Institutions below).
The CFA franc was created on 26 December 1945, along with the CFP franc. The reason for their creation was the weakness of the French franc immediately after World War II. When France ratified the Bretton Woods Agreement in December 1945, the French franc was devalued in order to set a fixed exchange rate with the US dollar. New currencies were created in the French colonies to spare them the strong devaluation, thereby making it easier for them to import goods from France (and simultaneously making it harder for them to export goods to France). French officials presented the decision as an act of generosity. René Pleven, the French Minister of Finance, was quoted as saying -
In a show of her generosity and selflessness, metropolitan France, wishing not to impose on her far-away daughters the consequences of her own poverty, is setting different exchange rates for their currency.
The CFA franc was created with a fixed exchange rate versus the French franc. This exchange rate was changed only twice, in 1948 and in 1994 (besides nominal adaptation to the new French franc in 1960 and the Euro in 1999).
The 1960 and 1999 events merely reflect changes of currency in use in France: the actual relative value of the CFA franc versus the French franc/euro only changed in 1948 and 1994.
Over time, the number of countries and territories using the CFA franc has changed as some countries began introducing their own separate currencies. A couple of nations in West Africa have also chosen to adopt the CFA franc since its introduction, despite the fact that they had never been French colonies.
In 1998, in anticipation of Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union, the Council of the European Union addressed the monetary agreements France had with the CFA Zone and Comoros and ruled that:
Critics point out that the currency is controlled by the French treasury, and in turn African countries channel more money to France than they receive in aid and have no sovereignty over their monetary policies. In January 2019, the Italians criticized France for impoverishing Africa through the CFA franc. France responded by ejecting Italy's ambassador to Paris. However, criticism of the CFA franc, coming from various African organizations, continued. On 21 December 2019, President Alassane Ouattara of the Ivory Coast and President Emmanuel Macron of France announced an initiative to replace the West African CFA Franc with the Eco. Subsequently, a reform of the West African CFA franc was initiated. In May 2020, the French National Assembly agreed to end the French engagement in the West African CFA franc. The countries using the currency will no longer have to deposit half of their foreign exchange reserves with the French Treasury. The West African CFA franc is expected to be renamed to the "Eco" in the near future.
The broader Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), of which the members of UEMOA are also members, plans to introduce its own common currency for its member states by 2027, which they have also formally adopted the name of eco for.
There are two different currencies called the CFA franc: the West African CFA franc (ISO 4217 currency code XOF), and the Central Africa CFA franc (ISO 4217 currency code XAF). They are distinguished in French by the meaning of the abbreviation CFA. These two CFA francs have the same exchange rate with the euro (1 euro = 655.957 XOF = 655.957 XAF), and they are both guaranteed by the French treasury (Trésor public), but the West African CFA franc cannot be used in Central African countries, and the Central Africa CFA franc cannot be used in West African countries.
The West African CFA franc (XOF) is known in French as the Franc CFA, where CFA stands for Communauté financière d'Afrique ('Financial Community of Africa') or Communauté Financière Africaine ("African Financial Community"). It is issued by the BCEAO (Banque Centrale des États de l'Afrique de l'Ouest, i.e., "Central Bank of the West African States"), located in Dakar, Senegal, for the eight countries of the UEMOA (Union Économique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine, i.e., "West African Economic and Monetary Union"):
The Central Africa CFA franc (XAF) is known in French as the Franc CFA, where CFA stands for Coopération financière en Afrique centrale ("Financial Cooperation in Central Africa"). It is issued by the BEAC (Banque des États de l'Afrique Centrale, i.e., "Bank of the Central African States"), located in Yaoundé, Cameroon, for the six countries of the CEMAC (Communauté Économique et Monétaire de l'Afrique Centrale, i.e., "Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa"):
Equatorial Guinea, the only former Spanish colony in the zone, adopted the CFA in 1984.