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CURRENCY, ECONOMICS AND BANKING 101

Franc CFA : A scheme of programmed generational poverty and enslavement of Francophone Africa 

In this article, we try to share some basics of  “monetary economics” and banking.  Our people should know how currency and banking work --at some basic level-- in today’s modern world. This writing is by no means an exhaustive course on the complex theories of monetary economics and banking, however it gives you the fundamentals that even non-economics scholars must know to make an informed decision on our perennial debate on the CFA franc, and to understand why FrancAfrique is in such a dire monetary predicament.

 

 

Economics is a social science that has been a part of human existence –probably-- as long as human beings have lived on earth. The word currency simply means money in any form, as a medium of exchange. In the modern world of today, almost all countries own a currency –paper money and coins—as a medium of exchange within and without their boundaries.

 

Currency and Central Bank

 

Every country that owns its own currency has a Central Bank. A Central Bank is simply the National Bank of a country that prints, distribute and manages the country’s currency. The Central Bank is the bank that holds the reserves of the commercial or retail Banks. It also holds the country's Public Treasury reserve account. It is indeed the Bank of banks. The nomenclature of this highest financial institution can be different from one country to another, but the functions are the same. In the US, the Central Bank is called the US Federal Reserve and is led by a Chairman. In the EU, it is called the European Central Bank and is led by a President. In Nigeria and Ghana, it is called the “Central Bank of Nigeria” and “Bank of Ghana” respectively and led by a Governor. So in this article, we will use the terms Chairman, Governor, President interchangeably.

Hypothetically, if Cameroon decides to create its own currency called the “Fako” or the “Camer”, we will create a Central Bank called the “Cameroon Central Bank” or the “Cameroon Reserve Bank” to go with it. The Cameroon Central Bank –CCB-- will be responsible for printing, distributing and managing the money supply of this currency. At its highest level, the Cameroon Central Bank will be led a Governor or a Chairman.

In modern countries, the Governor or the Chairman of the Central Bank is independent. He is nominated by the executive branch and confirmed by the Legislative body. --the National Assembly and/or the Senate, in the case of Cameroon--. The Governor or Chairman of the Central Bank must be accountable to the people through the National Assembly. He must appear on a quarterly basis to the National Assembly –or the house of the people-- to give an account of his actions, and clearly explain how the policies enacted at the Central Bank are meeting the statutory requirements of the institution that he leads.

The primary functions of a Central Bank are as follows:

1- Issue and distribute the country’s currency.

2- Manage the country’s Money Supply and define monetary policy.

The money supply is the total amount of monetary assets available in the economy at a specific time. In simple terms, it is the sum of the total currency in circulation and the total amount in demand deposit accounts in commercial and retail Banks.

Money Supply = currency in circulation + demand deposits (total amount in bank accounts)

3-  Define the interest rates and exchange rates.

The Central Bank fixes interest rates and exchange rates of the currency.

4- Control inflation and maximize employment. The Central Bank is responsible to implement policies that curb inflation and maximize the creation of employment.

5- Set the reserve requirement for commercial Banks. The Central Bank sets the amount that a commercial Bank must maintain in the Central Bank as a way to prove its solvency.

6- Act as a lender of last resort to the banking sector during times of bank insolvency or financial crisis. The Central Bank can lend money to commercial Banks to rescue the economy if necessary. This is what the US Federal reserve did in the 2008 great recession bail out of Banks and financial institutions in the US.

So every country that operates its own currency has its own Central Bank. The Central Bank issues, distributes and manages the currency of the country. The terminology or the nomenclature may be different from one country to another, but the functions of the Central Bank are the same.  The Central Bank of a country is led by a Governor or a Chairman who chairs the executive council of the Central Bank. The Central Bank’s executive council may consist of any number of members. –8, 12, 14 etc..--

 

Examples

The US Federal Reserve Bank issues the dollar and is managed by the Federal Reserve Chairman (Allan Greenspan, Ben Bernakee previously chaired the US Federal Reserves and Janet Yellen is the current).

The ECB (European Central Bank issues the Euro and is directed by the ECB board’s President, currently Mario Draghi of Italy, preceded by Wim Duisenberg, Netherlands).

The Bank of England issues the Pound Sterling or the Pound.

The Central Bank of Nigeria issues the Niara, and the Bank of Ghana issues the Cedi and so forth.

Currently, Cameroon and all the FrancAfrique countries do not have their own currencies and hence Cameroon does not have a Central Bank. Cameroon uses the French sub-standard currency called the CFA, along with all the other countries of the FrancAfrique. That is why Cameroon can neither issue nor control the CFA currency. The Central Bank of the CFA is the French treasury in Paris, France. Structures like the BEAC and the BCDAO are not Central Banks but merely intermediary Banks that relay the CFA currency and policies to the member countries. The French treasury is the entity that performs the roles of the Central Bank for this currency.

 

Example 

The French treasury fixes the interest rate and the exchange rate of the CFA, not the BEAC or BCDAO. The French treasury alone issues the CFA and controls the money supply, --which is the amount of currency in circulation and Bank deposits-- of the FrancAfrique countries. The French treasury devalued the CFA in 1994 –without the consent of the FrancAfrique Presidents--. So, per the functions of a Central Bank, the French Treasury, where the “Compte d’Operation” lives is indeed the Central Bank of the CFA. It manages this currency exclusively on directions of the French Government, and mostly without the consent or advice of the FrancAfrique Governments and Presidents.

So, the Francophone sub-Saharan African countries do not have a currency of their own, hence they do not have a Central Bank, like Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Angola or Rwanda just to name a few.

 

Commercial Banks

 

Commercial Banks are retail banks that hold deposit accounts –checking and saving-- in their balance sheets. Commercial Banks are required to maintain a reserve deposit with the Central Bank. They are required to maintain a certain percentage of their account deposits in this reserve in the Central Bank. This reserve account is used to conduct transactions with the Central Bank and other commercial Banks. Commercial Banks have access to loans from the Central Bank at interest rates defined by the Central Bank. These Banks can then make loans to their customers at a slightly higher rate to earn a profit.

Some very small banks can use intermediary Banks as their depositories instead of the Central Bank.

 

Creation of Currency and a Central Bank –Cameroon Central Bank (CCB)

 

The legislative body –which represents the people—has the power to create a national currency and a Central Bank. In the case of Cameroon, the National Assembly can adopt a law that creates a national currency and a Central Bank in Cameroon. This Central Bank will issue, distribute and manage the money supply of this currency. The Cameroon Central Bank will be managed by an executive council headed by a Chairman or a Governor. The constitution of the country must clearly define the paramount objectives and statutory requirements of the Central Bank. The Chairman or Governor of the Central Bank must define a monetary policy that meets the statuary requirements of the Central Bank as defined in the statutes.

For instance, the statutory requirements in the “US federal Reserve Act” instruct the Federal Reserve – the US Central Bank-- to define a monetary policy that achieves the following statutory objectives:

1- Maximum Employment. Any monetary policy defined by the Central Bank must, in its construct seek to achieve high employment. Creation of jobs must be the quintessential objective of any monetary policy.

2- Stable prices and Inflation control. Any monetary policy defined by the Central Bank must achieve stability of prices of goods and services. In other words, it must control inflation.

3- Moderate long term interest rates. The Central Bank policy must strive to achieve moderate long term interest rates. –for mortgage loans, long term investment loans etc...—

So, when nominated by the executive and confirmed by the legislative branches of Government, the Central Bank chairman must only define monetary policies that achieve the 3 statutory objectives above, defined in the law or the constitution of the country. As chairman, you can’t come up with ideas that are not intended to meet these requirements. To hold him accountable, the Chairman must appear before the legislative body –the US Congress—every quarter to explain his monetary policies and how they are intended to achieve the 3 statutory requirements above.

The Chairman of the Central Bank, working with the executive council –and in consultation—with prominent economists around the country, will come up with quantitative analyses of what the money supply of the country should be, and begin issuing more the currency or removing excess currency from circulation if necessary.

Question: Do you think that having the CFA operated from the French Treasury in Paris, by white French people, will seek to achieve the 3 objectives above for the francophone African people?

Keep in mind that BEAC and BCDAO are not the Central Banks of the CFA. They do not issue the CFA. They are merely distribution intermediaries. The French Treasury where the “Comptes d’Operation” lives is the Central Bank of the CFA, because the French Treasury and not BEAC or BCDAO devalued this currency in 1994.The French treasury alone fixes the interest and exchange rates of the CFA –and not the BEAC or BCDAO--.

Question: Do you think the French Treasury which is the Central Bank of the CFA will define policies that achieve Cameroon-centric economic objectives? If your answer is NO, then you must now understand the current situation of the FrancAfrique countries, and why world economists have said that it is simply impossible for the FrancAfrique to develop with the CFA. France and only France controls the CFA. Through the CFA, the FrancAfrique has –in essence-- surrendered its economic –and political—sovereignty to Paris, France, an ocean away from its people and countries. The CFA is managed by people who do not like us, and quite frankly, people who have no business or reason to protect the sub-Saharan Negro’s economic interest.

 

The Public Treasury --The Government's Bank Account--

 

The public treasury –which acts like the Government's Bank account-- of the country also maintains a reserve account at the Central Bank. This is the account that the treasury uses for its transactions such as tax collection, payment of Government bills, payment of the civil servants and the military etc... This is also the account into which the proceeds of all our exports such as petroleum, agriculture, forestry and others are paid into. Because Cameroon does not have a currency and a Central Bank, the so called “Comptes d’Operation” in the French treasury, Paris, is exactly the Cameroon Treasury’s account under the CFA currency. That is why all the proceeds of our exports are deposited in the “Comptes d’Operation” in which France automatically owns at least 50%. When a President of FrancAfrique needs money to pay the civil servants and the military, he has to request money from the French Treasury, from the  “Comptes d’Operation”.

If a President of FrancAfrique is not subservient to France, well, France can just cut off the money supply, by refusing to release money from the “Comptes d’Opeartion”, as was the case for Pascal Lissouba and Laurent Gbagbo. Under the CFA currency, FrancAfrique has essentially outsourced and surrendered its economic –and political—sovereignty to France.

When we create our own currency and our own Central Bank, the proceeds of all of our exports –petroleum, agriculture, forestry and other-- will be deposited in the Public Treasury account in our Central Bank, under the watchful eyes of our people. Our Central Bank will be able to address inflation more effectively, and define Cameroon-centric policies that will create decent jobs with living wages for our people. Our Central bank can define policies that encourage and support investments for small businesses such as a chocolate or Coffee factories, a tire manufacturing company, and other small industries that transform our produces locally.

With our own currency, our Government –working with the Central Bank-- can begin projects of building modern roads, bridges, hospitals, public housing, water and power plants and much more, creating jobs and putting our people to work with decent living wages. Government contractors, salaries and retirements pensions will always be paid on time, because the money is right there in the Central Bank of our country. You wonder why the Cameroon Government is always late in paying contractors, retirement pensions and others ? Well, that is mostly because the money has to come from the "Comptes d'Operation" in France, and hence the long wait times. With our own currency and our own Central Bank, all these payments will be prompt, because the money is right there in our country. With our own currency, we can freely trade –at our convenience-- with other countries like China, Nigeria, and South Africa directly. No more “Comptes d’Operation” in Paris as the middle man that has hindered our development and economic progress now for more than half a century.

Make no mistake, when have our own currency, this currency will be backed by our petroleum and hydrocarbon reserves, our agriculture –rubber, cocoa, forestry, our natural resources and others--, and the good governance that we will establish. Our GDP will grow by at least 30% --from its current level--, because the 50% that France is currently withholding through the “Comptes d’Operation” will come back to us, and we can anticipate a much larger growth rate. The contracts with TOTAL, ELF, BOLORE and other French companies exploiting our resources will be renegotiated at acceptable and fair levels.

 

Printing Currency --How many is made and distributed through the Commercial Banks--

 

At the order of the Central Bank, the department of Treasury prints currency –paper money and coins-- and hands it to the Central Bank for distribution.  Commercial banks can then buy this currency –using their reserve deposit-- from the Central Bank. When commercial Banks have more currency than they need, they can make deposits of the extra cash back to the Central Bank.

The amount of currency in circulation varies on a day to day basis. For instance people may withdraw more money on Fridays in preparation for the week-end or withdraw money at the beginning of school periods to meet their children school demands. At these times, there is more money in circulation.

After holiday season such as Christmas and New Year, consumer spending slows, and Banks may find that they have more currency than they need, and the excess currency is deposited back to their reserve accounts in the Central Bank. So at these times, there is less money in circulation.

The United States economy is worth about $14 Trillion dollars. However there is only about $1,3 Trillion dollars in circulation.

In a situation like the Zaire’s laughable failure, the Central Bank of Zaire was repeatedly instructed to print more currency to finance the permanent deficit status of Mobotu’s irresponsible and reckless Government.

You see, the Government too has to be disciplined in managing its expenses. When a Government runs deficits in a slow economy –Government is spending more than it can collect from taxes--, the legislative branch can pass a law, asking the Chairman or the Governor of the Central Bank to print more money to accommodate the Government deficit. This idea is derived from the "Keynesian Economic" principle, that more Government spending will stimulate the economy, and the returns on investment can close the deficit. But this has to be temporary –a few months or years--, and when the Government gets its balance sheets in order, the Central Bank can remove the excess money from the money supply. Injecting more currency in the country’s money supply is a well known economic principle called quantitative easing. The US Federal Reserve injected $1 Trillion dollars during the great recession of 2008, and the Fed is now slowly removing that excess money from the money supply while monitoring inflation.

It has been said that President Ahidjo used to inject CFA currency in the Cameroonian money supply. Some have called this a very bad thing to do. Well, Ahidjo was precisely doing quantitative easing, a well-known economic principle. However, he was forced to do so –somewhat illegally-- because he had no control over the CFA, which is only managed and printed in France, only under the instructions of the French treasury in Paris.

When we have an irresponsible Government like was the case with Mobotu, the Dictator, in blatant disregard to the constitution statutory requirements of the Central Bank, can repeatedly force the Central Bank Chairman or Governor to print more money out of thin air –with disrespect to sound monetary principles—and with no plans in place to adjust Government spending and balance its bottom line.  And so you end up with more currency in circulation which causes --the demand side-- inflation, because the demand (more currency will make people want to buy abnormally more) is higher than the supply (the goods or services offered in the country). This causes the price of goods to rise, and things slowly becomes unaffordable to more and more people.

To address this demand side inflation, the Central Bank could –very slowly and gradually-- reduce the money supply –remove the extra money from circulation--, in so doing, it reduces the demand –because less money means less people buying the goods and services--, which in turn will cause the prices of the goods to drop. At the same time, the Government can invest in targeted areas to increase supply.

So this is how demand side inflation can be resolved by controlling the money supply to the country and increase supply.  But the Central Bank must do so with caution, not to cause an economic slowdown in other areas.

The Central Bank, working with the Government could also curb inflation –high prices of goods and services— by increasing the country’s supply of goods and services. Let’s say for instance, that food has become prohibitively expensive because of inflation --caused by too much money in circulation--.  The Central Bank which controls interest rates can decide to lower specific interest rates for farmers only. This will incentivize farmers to take these loans, build more farms, and increase the food supply of the country. The increase in food supply will cause a drop in price for food.

So this is in a very simplistic way how sound currency management works. It is not rocket science. We just need serious people with the knowledge and competence to manage our small economy in a country the size and population of Cameroon.

So Economists in Cameroon should be examining the country’s economy through the collection of measurable metrics and other economic data, and come up with specific recommendations to deal with problems like inflation. Inflation can be controlled through monetary policy or supply side increase, or a combination of both. Most economists favor the supply side increases because it creates economic activity through investment and job creation, which in turn improves the citizen’s sentiment.

 

Conclusion

 

This document is not an exhaustive study guide on monetary economics, but I hope that it gives you the foundation of understanding what a currency really is and what it is not. I have urged the Cameroonian economists and intellectuals not to limit a currency debate to an intellectual abstraction or an academic adventure of some sort. Beyond the complex theories of economic science, economics remain a practical common sense science. And don’t let France trick us otherwise. We have to expand our thought processes beyond the confines of colonial education and imagine our world as it has never been and ask the question, why not? We must learn to use empirical knowledge, observation, our positive instincts, good judgment and common sense to enhance our bibliographical knowledge.

My octogenarian mother may not fully grasp the complex concepts of inflation or “demand vs supply”. But she sure understands that there is something intrinsically wrong and flawed, when someone in Paris, --who does not share her interests-- has to manage her Bank account and automatically owns 50% of everything she worked for.

Because this is exactly what the CFA represents to the FrancAfrique countries. A fundamentally flawed currency that has robbed FrancAfrique now for more than half a century, leaving our people, our children and future generations holding the bags of sorrow, despair and generational poverty. This is what has triggered the massive migration --or exodus-- of epic proportions of the FrancAfrique people, desperately looking for a better and dignified life on other shores. We, the people of Cameroon must simply put an end to this. The fight for our own currency is a fight for our economic and political sovereignty. But it is also a strategy of liberation from the shackles of the colonial master scheme of exploitation and enslavement. The CFA is the weakest link of the vicious scheme – CFA, Dictatorship and Exploitation--, of which the elements are inextricably interlinked. One can’t exist without the others. If we are successful in breaking the weakest link –the CFA--, we would have freed our people and our country once and for all from the shackles of colonial exploitation and generational slavery, and the blood of Um Nyobe, Ernest Ouandie, Felix Mounie and others would be justified.

With the CFA gone, the power to govern our country will return to the hands of the sovereign people of Cameroon, and the issues of governance, corruption, embezzlements, incompetence can be dealt with more effectively by the people’s justice, in the court of law. Good leaders will voted into power, bad and corrupt leaders will be voted out,  removed from power and prosecuted to the full extent of the law if necessary.

I like to leave you with three thoughts.

1- At this point of the argumentation against the CFA, we must understand the vicious circle of “CFA, Dictatorship, and Exploitation”. These three problems are inextricably interlinked. --In fact, it narrows down to one problem: the CFA. – The CFA constitute the root cause of all of our problems as a people and as a country. So the culprit has been clearly identified.

2- We, as a people must now elaborate on a strategy to get rid of the CFA. And the million dollar question is how? And this is the hardest part, when the rubber hits the road. Keep in mind that your octogenarian President, who has now been frozen in power for three decades is not expected to be of any help to this cause. Remember that he was put –and kept-- there by the French master who holds his power –who shamefully calls him, “bon eleve de la France”--. He is there to protect France’s interest exclusively and not his peoples’, and he is perhaps too busy to get his son to succeed him in power. Furthermore, rumor has it that he may even be in the European secret societies or cults of fraternity order such as AMORC or Freemasonry. So your President is sold, body and soul to the maters’ interest. So, don’t expect him to support his peoples’ cause, ironically.

3- So, we are left with the people and the Republic. We, the people, ultimately hold the sovereignty of our country. We, the people have the right to self- determination. We, the people have the God given rights to life, Freedom and the pursuit of happiness on this earth. We, the people have the right to be here now on earth in our Fatherland Africa. We, the people have the right to declare our separation from the colonial master and his CFA Trojan horse of a currency. We, the people have the right to self-governance. When we rise up as one people, united as one country, --transcending our tribal, ethnic and lingual differences--, victory will follow, because history teaches us that when a people rise up against the slave master, when a people fight with triumph and determination, they always achieve victory and glory at the altar of creation.

So go out there and teach the people what you know is right and what you have learned, and tell them that Freedom is at the door steps of sub-Saharan Africa.  And it only depends on us!!

 

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