Luigi Di Maio is the leader of the 5-Star Movement in Italy and Deputy Prime Minister in the current Italian government (in coalition with the Lega Nord).
Mr. Di Maio caused an uproar yesterday when he accused France of engaging in neo-colonialism in Africa by manipulating a regional currency known as the CFA. His remarks to the press on the subject may be seen in this video (switch on the closed-caption setting to see the English translation).
Giorgia Meloni is the leader of the anti-immigration party Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) and a member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies. The Brothers are not part of the current governing coalition in Italy, but they are long-time allies of the Lega Nord and take similar positions on most political issues.
Below are excerpts from the Wikipedia entry on the CFA:
The CFA franc (in French: franc CFA …, or colloquially franc) 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. Both currencies are guaranteed by the French treasury. Although separate, the two CFA franc currencies have awlays [sic] 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.
Both CFA francs have a fixed exchange rate to the euro: 100 CFA francs = 1 former French (nouveau) franc = 0.152449 euro; or 1 € = 6.55957 FRF = 655.957 CFA francs exactly.
So if the CFA is pegged to the euro, that means the institutions of the EU, and in particular the European Central Bank, are the effective controllers of the currency. Since all the countries involved are francophone, and the two major players in the EU are France and Germany, that makes France the de facto manager of monetary policy in fourteen African countries.
Furthermore, the “colonial” aspect of Mr. Di Maio’s assertions is reflected in the history of the CFA acronym, which has remained the same even as the ostensible meaning of its component letters has changed:
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…
The following article from ANSA discusses the official French reaction to Mr. Di Maio’s remarks:
Italy Envoy Called to French Foreign Ministry Over Di Maio
Africa remarks ‘hostile and without cause’
(ANSA) — Rome, January 21 — Italian Ambassador to France Teresa Castaldo was summoned to the French foreign ministry Monday over remarks Deputy Premier Luigi Di Maio made over alleged French policy in Africa, diplomatic sources told ANSA.
French diplomatic sources told ANSA Monday that Di Maio’s remarks were “hostile and without cause given the partnership between France and Italy in the European Union.” They said “they must be read in a context of Italian internal politics”.
Castaldo was summoned by the cabinet chief of French European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau over remarks Di Maio made at a rally Sunday, French media said.
The head of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), who is also labour and economy minister, said “if today people are leaving Africa is it because some European countries, with France in the lead, have never stopped colonizing tens of African States”.
Di Maio said French President Emmanuel Macron “first lectures us (on migrants), then continues to finance public debt with the money with which he exploits Africa”.
The deputy premier went on to suggest Brussels should impose sanctions on Paris and take the question to the United Nations.
Speaking on Italian radio Monday morning, Di Maio said Paris was allegedly “impoverishing” Africa with what he called “the franc of the colonies”.
He said “in order to keep the Africans in Africa, it would be enough for the French to stay home. France should start opening its ports. We’ll take migrants to Marseille until they stop minting the currency for Africa in Lyon”.
After France summoned the ambassador, Di Maio said that “Africa must be decolonised” and the EU, too, “must deal with this issue”.
He said “let’s look the causes in the face, too, not only the effects of emigration. There are authoritative economists all over the world who talk about it, we have only lit the spotlight on a truth”.
|00:00||…will be fast. [Unintelligible] the election of Emmanuel Macron.|
|00:03||And he said at a certain point that we were [making him vomit]. Making him vomit?|
|00:07||[Unintelligible] because we closed, blah, blah, blah, our ports. Perfect.|
|00:12||This is called franc CFA.|
|00:15||It is the colonial currency which France prints for fourteen African nations|
|00:21||that they dominate and by means of which they exploit the resources of these nations.|
|00:29||This… this is a boy who works in a gold mine in Burkina Faso.|
|00:37||Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world.|
|00:40||In Burkina Faso and for them, France prints colonial currency.|
|00:46||In exchange [the French] demand that 50% of everything|
|00:50||that Burkina Faso exports winds up in the coffers of the French treasury.|
|00:55||[Everything] that this boy goes into an underground mine to extract|
|01:00||mostly ends up in the pockets of the French state.|
|01:04||Therefore the solution is not taking the Africans and moving them to Europe.|
|01:08||The solution is to liberate Africans from certain Europeans who are exploiting them,|
|01:12||and to allow these people to live on what they have.|
|01:16||And I want to go to Europe [EU Parliament] and talk about this.|
|01:20||If the Italians give us some help on May 26, they will send us to Europe.|
|01:24||I want to say, “enough with…”
Hat tip for the article: Insubria.