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”.