Money, Currency and Power, with Focus on Africa - Contents panel I


Money, Currency and Power, with Focus on Africa


Convenors: Blandine Stefanson (The University of Adelaide, Australia), ^ Daouda Gary-Tounkara (Université de Paris VII, France)


The interrelations between money, currency and power call for a multidisciplinary approach and could bring together economists, social theorists, historians, media specialists as well as literature and film analysts. This session will focus on Africa but applications to other regions as well as theoretical approaches to the control of the populations through the manipulation of currency will throw light on the African situation. Money offers social prestige, and a recognised and independent currency gives clout to a state at the international level at the same time as it rewards individuals for their labour. The representation of African helplessness ("Afropessimism") requires lateral thinking and scholarship if it is to be dissipated. When and how did African countries become poor ? Where has the African gold disappeared? When did various “currencies” such as cowries become obsolete? Are there examples of currency changes and ensuing turmoil in African history ? The year 2004 will signal a ten-year run of the 1994 fifty percent devaluation of the CFA Franc. Comparisons with other African currencies should be of interest, in particular those countries that refused the French CFA (Guinea), or those who reintegrated the zone after a short spell on their own (Mali) and recently the case of Ghana who wishes to be integrated to the CFA zone. What is the validity of the post-colonial theoretical onslaught on colonization in the face of persistent poverty after over forty years of independence? Should Africans endorse the "Friday" syndrome (the "Vendredisme" indicted by Axelle Kabou’s Et si l’Afrique refusait le développemen?)? What is the feasibility, even on a small scale, of Nicolas Agbohou’s call for a Federation of African States and a currency that would be completely independent from the Euro (Le Franc CFA et l’Euro contre l’Afrique,Paris, Solidarit? Mondiale, 1999)? Theories of power and financial control need to be tested by terrain investigations. Daily financial harassment has been exposed by writers and filmmakers, in the wake of the “Mandate” by Ousmane Sembéne. Of particular interest would be a comparison of the aftermath of government financial measures on the populations under different regimes. One proposal is about the role of currency in controlling the mobility of people and assets under a socialist regime: the case of Modibo Keita’s Mali. Other studies could look at the modalities of money transfers, in particular for the thousands of migrants as well as different approaches to borrowing for business purposes, in particular for women. Inflation, devaluation and trading between countries with weak currencies (rubles and rupies etc...) should be relevant in the Russian context. Is there trading between Russia and Africa, and if not, why not? The Soviet Union was an important provider of goods, albeit specializing in arms, but what is the replacement? A study of the representation of economic hardship in African literature and cinema, based on an informed knowledge of ownership and development, would open new perspectives in contrast with the more common anthropological emphasis on the spiritual dimension of African culture.


^ Guillaume Nkongolo Funkwa

(Université de Lubumbashi, R. D. Congo)

Congolese Resistance to the Enforcement of European

Monetary Unit (1880-1923): A War of Currencies


When Stanley landed on the shores of the Congo River in 1880, he found the Africans to be versed in trading techniques and even using the type of currencies that the West then called goods-currencies. Overall, the Congolese territory appeared to be divided into 4 monetary spaces freely using four main currencies: the madiba (raffia cloth), the trumbash (boomerang), the tschombo (cross-shaped copper coin) and the nzimbu (shell). To secure monetary power and trade, Stanley agreed with Leopold II to introduce into the Congo currencies that were similar to those used by the Congolese people. Indeed, in 1885, Leopold II, who had first wished to create his own Leopoldian franc, encountered Congolese resistance and preference for local goods-currencies and therefore resigned to giving official status to the mitako – a copper wire ring used alongside other currencies by all people living in the territory of present-day Congo – thereby hoping that the people would get used to a single currency. In 1887, the Leopoldian Franc was issued. Unfortunately, the locals preferred the French, Portuguese and Arabic (thaler) currencies that were coming from neighbouring countries. Leopold turned round and decided to withdraw his own Franc to avoid using it as tax money. It was the only way to enforce tax payment in kind or forced labour which were better ways for him to get rich. In 1908, Belgium inherited Leopold’s EIC (The Independent State of Congo) and issued the Congolese franc. Decree upon decree ensued to prevent the continued use of local currencies. Only in the 1920s did the Belgian Franc come into force and acquire the discharging power of currency. From then on, resistance became scarce and linked to traditional transactions such as dowry. This paper will show that in order to keep the population under control, the power that was dominant in the hierarchy (be it Leopoldian or colonial Belgian) found it a good strategy to be in control of the currencies. But this war of currencies had to be waged for over 30 years.


^ Benjamin Claude Brower (Cornell University, Ithaca, USA)

Colonialism without Colonists: The Case of Rural Algeria in the Mid-Nineteenth Century


In an interview on France-Culture (5 November 2003), the pre-eminent scholar, Daniel Rivet pointed to a map of Algeria and asked "Où est le colonialisme?" It was found in the cities, he answered, but much of Algeria did not see European faces until the Revolution (1954-62). Rivet’s rhetorical response occults the fact that French colonialism had many faces. Among the most insidious, but least visible, were its economic and social effects. The establishment of a capitalist economy, the change to monetary exchanges, and the breakdown in traditional social order all contributed to a crisis in rural regions long before the arrival of schoolteachers and settlers. My paper focuses on the case of a pastoralist society in the steppes of southern Algeria in the mid 1800s. Troops did not arrive here until 1844, but the French presence in the north weighed heavily years before direct colonial rule. Most felt were the dramatic economic transformations caused by France’s scorched earth military campaigns. The local food supply depended on imports of northern grains, and the wars sent prices skyrocketing. This was compounded by French policies measured to sap the region’s unity and vitality such as punitive taxes, livestock requisitions, and divisive political alliances. Pauperization followed quickly and the social fabric became so frayed that a cataclysmic famine swept through the area leaving thousands dead. Pierre Bourdieu and Abelmalek Sayad have shown how the rural crisis played an important role in the Algerian Revolution, and, recently, scholars have extended this project to understand terrorism of the last decade. My paper seeks the crisis’s origins in the earliest stages of colonization. Its beginnings are located in the structural transformations of colonization and in more deliberate policies aimed at the resources of rural people. Indeed, in northern Algeria, pauperization speeded the opening of lands to European settlement. However, my research finds that these policies were more generalized. Economic insecurity was a central part of the administration’s plan to establish order in the vast Algerian hinterland with a minimum of cost and risk.


^ Benoît Beucher (Université de Paris IV, France)

The Moaga Chieftaincy, Colonial Administration and Money:

A Struggle of Influence in Upper Volta (1896-1960)


Relations between the Mossi chiefs of the Wagadugu Kingdom and French colonists can be summed up as a bitter rivalry between two forms of power that overlap without either one resolutely taking the upper hand. This survival of the moaga chieftaincy resulted from the resistance that successive Moogo Naabas (Kings of Wagadugu and Heads of the Moogo or “World” referring to a federation of Mossi states or chieftaincies) opposed to the conquerors as well as their ability to modify their political structure. Of course, money was a major stake in this negotiation. Indeed, the colonisers and the Mossi chiefs agreed on one issue: both parties held money as a means to maintain sovereignty, through showcasing and exerting authority in order to control the population. Currency, as the French introduced it, was a challenge to the chiefs who were hanging on to their power. Did they manage to make use of taxation and the new monetary circuits as they did by “negotiating” their help in the construction of the Ivory Coast Railway and the Office du Niger (Niger River Development Project)? First, to what extent did the institutionalisation of chiefs in colonial days modify the (re)distribution of money within the Wagadugu Kingdom, and how did this affect the political aura of Mossi Chiefs? Second, what role did currency play in this competition between colonial power and the chiefs’ traditional rule with regard to sovereignty? Furthermore, this paper will explore the geopolitical implications of the new internal hierarchy of the Moogo structure after its chiefs were officially put on a salary scale by the colonisers. Of interest too are the consequences of the use of currency in the larger context of Upper Volta: did the chiefs benefit from capitation (fixed tax per head) or other colonial forms of revenue, including foreign funds whose use was debated, e.g. investment in the development of Ouagadougou, the Moogo Naaba’s capital as opposed to Bobo-Dioulasso, the second city of the colony?


^ Daouda Gary-Tounkara (Université de Paris VII, France)

The Malian Franc: A Tool for Sovereignty or Subjection of the Population?

The Dioula (traders) and Monetary Reform in Mali (1962-1968)


As in most parts of the world, currency is an indicator of sovereignty and power insofar as it regulates exchanges. One only needs to look at the importance of the US dollar on the world scale to be persuaded of this correlation: the American currency is being used in numerous countries in the world as well as in the USA. Another feature of currency is to enable a political power to establish its legitimacy within an emerging Nation-State. This proves to be the case in Third World countries and in Africa. It is a well known fact that, in 1960, the colonising powers tried to maintain their former subjects in a state of economic dependency (and the use of the CFA franc in African francophone countries stands as a blatant proof to this subjugation), but a lesser known fact is that African financial policies triggered opposition in some parts of the population. Wanting to secure their legitimacy and cut themselves off the former colonial powers, several governments boldly launched monetary autonomy by minting coins and printing notes of their own. Following Guinea’s example, socialist Mali under Modibo Keita embarked on a major monetary reform that was sanctioned by the creation of the Malian franc in 1962. This monetary device was meant to preserve the interests of the new State against France and to keep under control the mobility of goods in a territory that had historically been open to the outside world. However, the new policy did not rally the whole of the population and was resented in particular by the migrants and the Dioula who moved freely between Mali and the West coast. Faced with monetary instability, these social groups devised ways of bypassing legislation in order to maintain the convertibility of the Malian franc. The aim of this paper is to emphasize the role of currency in controlling capital mobility in a State that seeks to secure its authority. By analysing the interplay of power, currency and trading communities, I want to show how State and private network rationales clash in the process of wealth appropriation.


^ David Dorward (La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia)

Puntland: Currency in a Non-State


With the collapse of the Somali state following the fall of Said Barre’s government in 1991, the central bank ceased to function, banks were looted by warlords and the country fragmented. Yet Somali 1000 shilling banknotes continue to serve as local currency. In north-eastern Somalia, the Somali warlord, Abdullahi Yusuf, forged a powerbase amongst the largely Majertain clans of Harti Darod in the old Mudug, Nugal, and Bari provinces, forging a semi-autonomous region known as Puntland. While there have been clashes amongst the sub-clans and between the traditional clan elders and the men with the guns, Puntland is an island of relative stability with an active livestock export-trade with the Middle East through the port of Bosasso. The paper, based on fieldwork in Somalia in 2003, focuses on the economy of Puntland, the role of Somali currency in the local economy and the interface with the global economy mediated through Islamic remittance companies. The unregulated Somali remittance companies, based on family and inter-personal trust, transfer considerable sums every month from the Somali diaspora in Australia, Europe and North America to their families in Puntland. In turn, much of the hard currency, which remains abroad, is used by Somali entrepreneurs to the thriving import trade with the Gulf States and to fund investments in Puntland. In effect, the remittance companies set the exchange rate in response to but autonomous of the warlord power-structure. While Islamic banks and remittance companies comprise only a small percentage of global financial transactions, the volume of currency they are handling is growing and represent a potential threat to hegemony of the Western banking system. In the ‘War on Terrorism’, unregulated Somali remittance companies have come under considerable pressure to formalise their activities, with largely unsubstantiated accusations of ‘money laundering’ through Somalia by al-Quida.


^ Guillaume Nkongolo Funkwa (Université de Lubumbashi, R. D. Congo)

Out-of-date Monetary System and Obsolete Financial Techniques as Strategies for Developing Underdevelopment in Africa: The Case of Congo (DRC) (1885-2003)


Whereas elsewhere (in the West) countries are developing, in Africa generally and in the Democratic Republic of Congo (RDC) in particular, countries instead develop their underdevelopment. How did this happen? It is no secret that the main cause for non-development in Africa is lack of capital (investment, credit and so on). But what caused this ongoing lack of capital to last for over a century? Taking the RDC as an example, I want to show how a masterly conceived and craftily applied strategy has been maintaining this bottleneck. First, it is about the imposition of an out-of-date monetary regime, i.e. a regime that does not fulfil its historical functions, or rather that only fulfils one of the four functions of currency, namely, exchange (selling and buying), reserve (saving), payment (debts and taxes) and financing the economy (credit, titles, shares). In an out-of-date regime, contrary to its assigned role, the official currency fails to finance the economy. Instead, right from the days of the Independent State of Congo founded by Leopold II in1885 (EIC) to the demands for structural adjustment by the IFM and the World Bank, powerful foreign financial groups have confined the Congo to its role of raw matters provider. Second, we are about the imposition of obsolete financial techniques. Indeed, in most developing countries of today, already in the sixteenth century, a complex structure of financial techniques was set up to facilitate the financial functioning of the economy. These techniques are a self-standing banking system, including sound credit institutions; a stock exchange (stocks and shares); a regular bond market; an operative Treasury. However, curiously, in Africa and in particular in the RDC, these techniques are slow coming and the national currency is taking a long time to entering the process of establishing capital. Today, 98% of the population is only using cash. At the start of the twentieth century, these two repressive monetary strategies are still being used to hamper development in our least developed countries of the South. We will offer a counter-strategy to suggest a way out of the abyss.


^ Teresa Thorp (Université de Paris V, France)

Monetary Union in the West African Context: The Importance of Intra-Regional Harmonisation in the Fight against Poverty


In November 2003, Dr. Michael Ojo, Director-General of the West African Monetary Institution (WAMI) disclosed that the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, the Economic Community of Africa, the European Central Bank and the Bank of England are joining forces with WAMI to implement a second currency in the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ). Spearheaded by The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, with Cape Verde and Liberia holding observer status, WAMI aims to establish a sub-regional monetary union characterised by a common central bank with a single currency, the ECO, replacing the existing five national currencies within the WAMZ. Subsequently, it is envisaged that a single convertible currency for the fifteen Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will result from merging the ECO with the CFA franc (which is in circulation within eight countries of the West-African Economic and Monetary Union: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo). On the one hand, and despite WAMI’s efforts in lobbying for support from heads of member state countries, a second single sub-regional currency remains a major challenge, not least of all because of the expansive informal sector, the degree of illiteracy and the communications challenges in the West African sub-region. On the other hand, a single monetary policy in the WAMZ will provide a springboard to the next phase of harmonisation whereby all ECOWAS currencies will be convertible and therefore do not necessitate the use of foreign devices for intra-regional trade. Will the WAMI countries "fast-track" approach to instate a single currency, the ECO, be achieved by July 2005? How serious are ECOWAS countries in meeting this deadline? What is at stake and what must be done to achieve integration within the WAMZ? This paper explores these questions. It places monetary union within the context of international economic law and further considers the importance of Regional Trade Agreements in the advancement of West African integration as a means to eradicate poverty.


^ Obweng-Okwess Kizobo (Université de Lubumbashi, R. D. Congo)

Money and Power Exercise in the Democratic Republic of Congo:

The Case of the "Scrap Metal Operation" in Katanga


One of the eleven provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Katanga, known for its mineral resources, has been called a "geological scandal". Mineral exploitation of Katanga was undertaken by the Upper Katanga Mineral Union (Union Minière du Haut Katanga, UMHK), the present-day Générale des Carrières et des Mines (GÉCAMINES [The Mines and Quarries Company]). In the early seventies, the governor of the Katanga province launched the Scrap Metal Operatoin ("Opération Mitrailles") that consisted in allowing residents to commercialise scrap metal generated by the Gécamines Company. Later on, unfortunately, the scrap metal sales licence holders proved to be real smugglers. Indeed, they commercialised Gécomines mining products, including cobalt. The Scrap Metal Operation thus became the “Cobalt” deal. Politicians at both provincial and national levels availed themselves of this organised fraud to accumulate colossal wealth. With this money, the "Cobaltists", as they were known, constituted a plutocracy that committed many abuses. These new rich rapidly became the untouchables of the Mobutu regime. This situation went on until President Laurent Désiré Kabila took power in 1997. My paper will study the spoliation process that undermined the Gécomines Company under the cover of the scrap metal operation, taking into account the political, economic, social and cultural effects this fraud had on the population of Katanga.


^ Xavier Renou (Université Paris II, France)

Financial Criminalization and New Subjection Links in Africa:

Their Impact on International Relations


This paper looks into the seemingly growing incidence of criminal economy in Africa at large and in particular criminal financial economy (counterfeiting and money laundering). I want to reflect, first, on the impact of this criminal financial economy on world economy and, second, on the complex nexus of relations between African and world powers, in particular the USA and France. In the wake of many researchers who have analysed state criminal activity and criminal manipulation of power distribution in Africa, I wish to investigate criminalization as a strategy which is readily available to African elites who strive to be influential in international relations, i.e. to retrieve their foregone power. Indeed, African power may have been confiscated in the process of subjection of the African continent in present-day world hierarchy. My paper focuses on financial criminalization as a probable means to reverse hierarchy and retain power that could otherwise be denied in the wider context of neo-colonial globalization, i.e. domination of financial capital. I will first assess the traditional attributes of power in the new context of financial globalization and then the interference of criminal economy with mainstream economy and politics of African States on the one hand and Western powers on the other. The most visible of these interactions may be the regular exposure of the connection between African "criminal" elites and Western “democratic” elites by way of various legal and media scandals, e.g. the recent case against the French trans-national corporation Elf. Such complicity is more beneficial to the ruling classes of African regimes than to their “democratic” counterparts who probably are more sensitive to what public opinion may make of their reputation. The new influence of criminal African elites on Western elites, who are more likely to submit to democratic control, obviously resembles a power relation and consequently alters, without necessarily contradicting them, the dominant concepts of present-day hierarchy of powers.


^ Blandine Stefanson (University of Adelaide, Australia)

Ideology, Money and Film Narrative in Francophone Africa


The ideology of financing African cinema has been investigated by Manthia Diawara; Frank Ukadike, Françoise Balogun and Claire Andrade-Watkins. Instead, my paper focuses on money as a tangible indicator of the underlying ideology of film narrative. First, choosing a sociological approach, I’ll show that tenets and beliefs determine the representation of a given society’s attitude towards money; second, I’ll reflect on the symbolical and philosophical interpretation of dominant ethics by the filmmaker. Thus, this paper studies the conflicting hierarchy of ideologies of money in African cinema, without forgetting that, whether in features or documentaries, cinematography shapes rather than reflects reality. In Western narrative tradition, money is an absolute that increases its value by self-growth insofar as establishing capital, indeed even hoarding, may lead to crime. Many African filmmakers, who mandate themselves to represent their community-oriented, and in particular Muslim, societies, give an opposite value to money. The daily obsession with money – toiling to feed a family, begging or stealing (con or embezzlement) – not only reveals the inequalities of African societies but also introduces an African hierarchy of values that could validate Axelle Kabou’s idea that Africa refuses development. In some scenarios, saving for a house is thus considered an offence whereas the hard earned or stolen "million" of CFA francs is redistributed to obtain God’s and society’s blessing. In African movies, however, money can also subvert the ideology of male social prestige. Showing off money to satiate one’s desire for power is not the thing to do for a woman, as in Hyènes by Mambéty-Diop. Women, who spend their money as they please, challenge tradition. A financially independent woman becomes a symbol of the national search for solutions to economic failure. Seen as modernity instigators, women drive cars, sign cheques, and devise economy adapted to African needs. In this new role, businesswomen and craftswomen in action are favourites with African filmmakers and Western documentary directors alike. By analysing antithetic, albeit stereotypical representations of money in African cinema, I aim to offer insights into African ways of or fantasies about improving life conditions.

^ PANEL XIV


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