Home / Africa / An activist set fire to a CFA note and reignited a debate on France’s hold on Francophone Africa

An activist set fire to a CFA note and reignited a debate on France’s hold on Francophone Africa

A divisive decision by an activist to set a CFA note on fire in Senegal has reignited a debate on the common currency and the influence France still holds over francophone Africa.

Kemi Seba set fire to a 5,000 CFA note (equivalent to $9.20) on Aug. 19, in protest over “Francafrique”—France’s continued political and economic influence over its former African colonies.
Seba was arrested after a complaint by the Central Bank of West African States, which prints the notes. The West African CFA is the currency of Senegal and seven of other nations.

Kemi Seba
The currency remains pegged to the euro and governed by treaties with France. The currency is managed by two regional bodies (pdf), the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU).

The Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), manages the Central African CFA for currencies of oil producers like Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and three other central African nations. In the Comoros, the CFA is known as the Comorian Franc.

Burning the CFA is a criminal offense, and Seba stood trial along with the man who handed him the lighter. But the court acquitted him on Aug. 31, reportedly on technicality—Senegal’s law punishes the destruction of multiple CFA notes, but not one.

Still, Senegal’s interior ministry deemed Seba’s presence in the country “a serious threat to public order” and expelled him on Sept. 7. Back in Paris and undeterred, Seba is planning (link in French) an anti-CFA rally in Paris on September 16. Senegal’s response has raised questions about freedom of expression in the country, nearly as many as Seba’s own political motivation.

Born in France to Beninese parents, 35-year-old Stellio Gilles Robert Capo Chichi has made a life of opposing France’s neo colonial ambitions. Dubbed the French Farrakhan (link in French), Seba founded the Kemite party, based on Black Nationalism and ideas of ancient Egypt but overshadowed by anti-Semitism, which eventually led to the “tribe’s” banning. Seba has since reinvented himself as a Pan-African activist and anti-colonialist.

Irrespective of his political background, setting fire to a single note worth about 7 euros, or $9, has forced many to question the colonial roots of the shared currency. One protestor compared seeing the note go up in flames to the moment when Nelson Mandela set is apartheid-era passbook on fire in 1960. On social media, some have hailed Seba while others have questioned his political motivations.

People may not like him, Kemi Seba, because of his ways of talking, very harsh, French, arrogant, but his fight is right. FCFA is slavery.

— SavePlanetEarth (@eltheus) September 7, 2017

“While remaining doubtful about the relevance of the decision to expel this brother, I would like to say that I am equally shocked to see that our currency remains of colonial inspiration,” wrote one Facebook-user based in Douala. For others, the protest requires a different strategy, turning to technology instead flames.

“For decades, Africans have been fighting to change the governance of the francophone zone. Some have died,” wrote academic Alain Nkoyock. “Since the crypto-currencies (Bitcoin, Monero, Cash, or Dash) and the related technologies around them are about to upset the financial sector, why not invest all our last efforts to bypass the CFA?”

West Africa seems unwilling to let go of the shared currency, even launching a digital version, the CFA. The eCFA has its roots in the colonial era when France chose to print a single currency (pdf) for its colonies rather than transport cash. With independence, the printing authority became the central banks of West and Central Africa, guided by policies from Paris.

France devalued the currency in 1994, bowing to pressure from the rest of Europe that its support was akin to a subsidy. Since then, little reform has taken place. The two economic regions are not quite integrated, yet their value to the euro is exactly the same. Interest rates are set by the European Central Bank and France dominates trade with CFA countries. On the plus side, inflation remains low and Guinea, the only francophone country that doesn’t use the shared currency, has struggled.

France’s influence over the economies of 14 African nations also has political repercussions, which many young francophone Africans have blamed their presidents for. Seba’s act of protest tapped into a debate that has already been simmering.

Quartz Africa

Check Also

Axe Douala-Yaoundé: la circulation rétablie à Ebombe

Après l’affaissement hier de la buse à Ebombe sur la nationale numéro 3, les travaux …


  1. One sane individual refusing to be a slave and charging towards the master’s whip. Unfortunately in the Beti banana republic, donkeys like Ras Tuge, Mbappe and hordes of others are demonstrating their lunacy by comparing flag burning to state embezzlement as they embrace what ever cage their French master has for them. Amba land say no more!

    • Should you not rejoice that under the darkest sky, there are some bright spots? Look at Patrice Nouma of CCT in NY doing a fantastic surgical debridement of the gangrene at home. Look at what the courageous Charles Ateba Eyene did to expose the rot that others do overtime to acclaim. Look at the smart courageous Lawyer Alice Nkom exposing the perfidy that passes for justice at home. Hon. Martin Oyono tells it like it is that the system has elevated retrograde practices to an art. Look at Chantal Tuile who courageously exposed how the CNPS boss and nephew of the head of state diverts old age pension payments to sponsoring air tickets for persons to watch football matches in Europe.

      So much to rejoice for should confine mediocrities and retrogrades to the back burner where they belong.

  2. Quelle ironie! Deporter un africain de son pays parce qu il fait ce que le gouvernement devrait faire pour se liberer du cancer africain qui s appelle FRANCE.

    • La devise de “Urgences panafricanistes” l’ ONG de Kemi Seba est justement : Ce que les dirrigeants n’ont pas pu faire pour le peuple, le peuple le fera lui meme.

  3. Kemi Seba, un lion, un vrai. Mon ami personel, mon frere de sang et de lutte.
    La date du 16 septembre reste maintenue, malgres le fait que Macky Sall ,par ordre de son maitre Macron font tout pour nuire à cette lutte anti -cfa/anti France-Afrique, on ne lachera rien.
    Nous serons nombreux a Paris le 16 prochain pour crier notre ras le bol.
    Bruxelles ainsi que bcoup d’autres capitales Africaines sont mobilisées.
    Voici un vrai combat pour la souveraineté de notre peuple.
    Bruler un billet de 5000 cfa en terre Africaine par un vrai activiste et bruler le drapeau Camerounais hors du Pays par des vandals sont 2 choses bien différentes. Ne mélangez pas tout!
    Ne comparez surtout pas Kemi Seba aux terrorristes sans nomn ni intégrité. De grace..

    • I know you have a hard time comprehending basic issue and maybe you even suffer from 5 minutes of madness everyday, judging from the way you shoot off your mouth. First, the colonial bosses unleashing African puppets to rape their people do not live in Africa, so it’s only logical to burn things closer to their doorstep. It also gets greater cover and forestalls any negative move by colonial tools like Macky Sall, the coward that was completely dragged in the mud in Mecca few years ago. The second point is that the strength of burning a flag or a bank note rests on the symbolism of the act, not where it was carried out. There’s no selective memory about fighting oppression. Jacob Zuma and others directed the fight against apartheid from abroad and at that time they were accused of treason

      • I know you can’t get it, your pretentious head is stuck deep up the asses if the French you pretend to abhor. You are applauding your ” ami personnel” for doing something on African soil, while blaming ” terrorists” for burning the flag abroad, yet you want to meet your dear friend in Paris to protest, not in Africa! At times low level lapdogs seeking for notice like you hard better not show your illiterateracy in public. Go to Yaoundé and ” crier your ras le bol”, why head to Paris. Are you not ” une vraie combattante”, like your friend Kemi Seba?

        • Can you please NEVER reply to my comments again? I don’t interact with people like you. You talk too much and say nothing!

        • If I said nothing, why on earth would you not want me to reply to your comments? Remember you are the hollow woman who was admonishing Pinguiss for calling anglophones biafras and you are all over the place now branding them terrorists and other demeaning names. Have you forgotten that you told Pinguiss ; ” ca ne se faire pas” ? How has it suddenly become normal with you? I will keep coming after you, until you desist from ever messing with anglophones again! Primitive woman!

        • Do you have issues with women? It seems like some woman is the cause of your anger. Please go after her, not me.
          Why can’t you wright a sentence without insults?
          I don’t interact with people like you.

        • Anger? You are the one without a shred of female grace and dignity. You are calling anglophones vandals, terrorists without integrity, and yet I am the one who is angry! That is how people of you ilk are, you give blows but you can’t take the hit. Don’t play the woman card with me because you have been pretty nasty. This is an open forum and you are well aware that the insults you dish out will be responded to. As long as you hit us, I will only double down on roughing you up, mark my words! Small hypocrite!

  4. Mr. Ambazonia

    Two things amuse me about LRC francophones. These are:

    1. Absolute interest in courageous acts undertaken by francophones of other African countries. This kind of interest is stupidly surprising because LRC is living under huge tyranny and dictatorship but the fellows spend all their time commenting and taking sides only behind the keyboard. Their country is depreciating and stagnating but they spend all their time consuming dictatorship but commenting and making proposals on other people. Southern Cameroonians have taken the bull by the horns and the fellows sit by watch and pray hell is rained on the courageous. Irony. Claiming Southern Cameroonians are one with them, but they can’t join them to flush out the dictatorship. They rather spend time criticising.

    • Cameroonians love their Country and love the unity of the Country. You will have no freinds if you want to devide the Country by acting like barbars.
      Fight for equal rights as Citizens of Cameroon , fight for better gouvernance, think bigger and fight the real ennemy who is France and France-Afrique, then you will get freinds.

      • You are a representative of the French system, that is why you resort to the worst language to treat the very people you want to be your compatriots. A mentally retarded entity like you should not use words like barbarians, vandals , terrorists , when describing people you pretend to your compatriots. You have you opinions and as long as you pass them across politely, that will be ok. But if the morally loose idiot you are keep referring to others as barberians, you will meet with iron.

  5. Mr. Ambazonia

    2. Comparing human beings to flags. Nothing has ever appeared stupid to me like comparing the human life to flags. They raise their voice against Southern Cameroonians for burning a flag. I mean for burning a piece of clothing. Unfortunately, no one hears them criticise their military for killing, torturing, raping human beings. The French mentality of glorifying le chef de l’etat and les symboles de l’etat. It’s sad!

  6. #1 A good fighter must some times expect the opponent to strike back too. That is natural.
    #2 Spice is good for the sauce. But only so much is required for each dish. Excess spice spoils the whole thing and may lead to customer complaints
    #3 A pendulum swings from one end to the other, making it impossible to say for sure its correct position. When a human being chooses to swing like a pendulum, from one end to the other, well, people treat such a human like a pendulum.
    #4 If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…it is probably a duck.
    #5 Showing solidarity is a human trait noticed when views and values converge. It is to be encouraged. Terrorists too hate the CFA franc and that is a convergence.

    • Épée Dipanda

      The flag had 2 stars, who voted to take out 1?
      Our francophone brothers and sisters are absolutely hilarious. On TV5# I heard Denise Ep# suggest that we Anglophones wanted to join francophones in 1972… 1972… They are so bent on lying that the dates make no sense to them any longer.
      January 1960, October 1961 is all the same to them….nobody should complain about the dying nation which in their feeble minds is UN et indivisible…..hahahaha.
      I know indivisible….you don’t have to tell me. I will know it when I see it. For now it’s hasta la vista Baby!

  7. So from 1994 to 2017 it not only prop ups Frances treasury but also the rest of europe as well? For 21 years ? No wonder we have no infrustructures and poverty .
    If the europeans found a discrepency how come these African states didnt get a reimbursment for the entire time theyve been ripped off by France !! rather than a devaluation? What a rip off!.Subsidy indeed
    How come the interest rates (set now by the european central bank(?) of the banks to CFA indegionous borrowers been set so high ? On what base? Europe is in more debt and wastes public money alot more than any of the African states involved .