Learn more about CFA franc
The CFA franc (in French: franc CFA, "céfa", or just franc colloquially) is a currency used in 12 formerly French-ruled African countries, as well as in Guinea-Bissau (a former Portuguese colony) and in Equatorial Guinea (a former Spanish colony). The ISO currency codes are XAF for the Central African and XOF for the West African CFA .
Although Central African CFA francs and West African CFA francs have the same monetary value against other currencies, Western coins and banknotes are not accepted in countries using Central African CFA francs, and vice versa.
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 the time of their independence, CFA can have two meanings (see Institutions below).
The CFA franc was created on December 26, 1945, along with the CFP franc. The reason for their creation was the weakness of the French franc immediately after the Second World War. 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. 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."
 Exchange rate
- December 26, 1945 to October 16, 1948 – 1 CFA franc = 1.70 FRF (FRF = French franc). This 0.70 FRF premium is the consequence of the creation of the CFA franc, which spared the French African colonies the devaluation of December 1945 (before December 1945, 1 local franc in these colonies was worth 1 French franc).
- October 17, 1948 to December 31, 1959 – 1 CFA franc = 2.00 FRF (the CFA franc had followed the French franc's devaluation versus the US dollar in January 1948, but on October 18 1948 the French franc devalued again and this time the CFA franc was revalued against the French franc to offset almost all of this new devaluation of the French franc; after October 1948 the CFA was never revalued again versus the French franc and followed all the successive devaluations of the French franc)
- January 1, 1960 to January 11, 1994 – 1 CFA franc = 0.02 FRF (January 1 1960: the French franc revalued, with 100 'old' francs becoming 1 'new' franc)
- January 12, 1994 to December 31, 1998 – 1 CFA franc = 0.01 FRF (sharp devaluation of the CFA franc to help African exports)
- January 1, 1999 onward – 100 CFA franc = 0.152449 euro or 1 euro = 655.957 CFA franc. (January 1, 1999: euro replaced FRF at the rate of 6.55957 FRF for 1 euro)
The value of the CFA franc has been widely criticized as being too high, which many economists believe favors the urban elite of the African countries which can buy manufactured goods cheaply at the expense of the farmers who cannot easily export agricultural products. The devaluation of 1994 was an attempt to reduce the value of the CFA franc.
 Countries and other territories
- 1949: French Somaliland (Djibouti) leaves
- 1960: Guinea leaves
- 1962: Mali leaves
- 1967: Réunion leaves for French franc
- 1973: Madagascar leaves (1972 according to another source)
- 1973: Mauritania leaves
- 1974: Saint-Pierre and Miquelon leaves
- 1984: Mali rejoins (1 CFA franc = 2 Malian francs)
- 1985: Equatorial Guinea joins (1 "franco" = 4 bipkwele)
- 1997: Guinea-Bissau joins (1 franc = 65 pesos)
 European Monetary Union
In 1998 in anticipation of Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union, the Council of the European Union addressed the monetary agreements France has with the CFA Zone and Comoros and ruled that:
- The agreements are unlikely to have any material effect on the monetary and exchange rate policy of the Euro zone
- In their present forms and states of implementation, the agreements are unlikely to present any obstacle to a smooth functioning of economic and monetary union
- Nothing in the agreements can be construed as implying an obligation for the European Central Bank (ECB) or any national central bank to support the convertibility of the CFA and Comorian francs
- Modifications to the existing agreements will not lead to any obligations for the European Central or any national central bank
- The French Treasury will guarantee the free convertibility at a fixed parity between the euro and the CFA and Comorian francs
- The competent French authorities shall keep the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the Economic and Financial Committee informed about the implementation of the agreements and inform the Committee prior to changes of the parity between the euro and the CFA and Comorian francs
- Any change to the nature or scope of the agreements would require Council approval on the basis of a Commission recommendation and ECB consultation
Strictly speaking, there actually exist two different currencies called 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.
 West African
The West African CFA franc (XOF) is just known in French as the Franc CFA, where CFA stands for Communauté financière d'Afrique ("Financial Community of Africa"). 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, Sénégal, for the 8 countries of the UEMOA (Union Économique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine, i.e. "West African Economic and Monetary Union"):
In 2004, the 1994 series of West African banknotes were switched for a new series. These new notes have updated security features, and are more modern in design. The switch has also been welcomed because of the perception that the old bills were dirty and disease-ridden (1). Despite this, there are fears that those living in rural regions will not hear of the changeover, and as a result, will lose their savings when the older series notes are demonetarized. As well, the color of the 5,000 CFA bill was changed from blueish to green, which could leave open the possiblility of the illiterate being shortchanged when switching from the old to the new series.
The anglophone states of Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, and the francophone state of Guinea, have formed the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) and will introduce a common currency, the Eco, on 1 December 2009. Liberia is also set to join this monetary zone, and the ultimate goal is to unite the UEMOA and the WAMZ to form a single West African monetary zone.
 Central African
The Central Africa CFA franc (XAF) is just 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 Yaounde, Cameroon, for the 6 countries of the CEMAC (Communauté Économique et Monétaire de l'Afrique Centrale, i.e. "Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa"):
These 6 countries have a total population of 34.15 million inhabitants (2003) and a combined GDP of 28.3 billion USD in 2003. This is about the same population as Tanzania, and the same GDP as Kazakhstan.
Interestingly, in 1975, Central African CFA banknotes were issued with an obverse unique to each participating country, and common reverse, in a fashion similar to euro coins.
Equatorial Guinea, the only former Spanish colony in the zone, adopted the CFA in 1984.
 Current XAF/XOF exchange rates
 See also
 External links
- History of the CFA franc
- Franc zone information at Banque de France (in English)
- (French) Franc zone information at Banque de France (in French, but more extensive than the English version)
- Decision of the Council of Europe on 23 November 1998 regarding the CFA and Comorian francs (Adobe Acrobat (PDF) file)
- "For better or worse: the euro and the CFA franc", Africa Recovery, Department of Public Information, United Nations
 West African
- Banque Centrale des États de l'Afrique de l'Ouest (Central Bank of West African States)
- (French) Union Economique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine (UEMOA) (Official Site of the West African Economic and Monetary Union)
- "The Many Varieties of West African States Banknotes" by Weldon D. Burson
 Central African
- (French) Banque des États de l'Afrique Centrale (Bank of the Central Africa States)
- (French) Communauté Economique et Monétaire de l'Afrique Centrale (Official Site of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa)
- Central Bank of Madagascar
- (French) Passé et Avenir du Franc C.F.A.
- The CFA franc zone and the EMU
- U.S. Dollar to CFA Franc (BEAC) Exchange Rate - Yahoo! Finance
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