Luigi Di Maio, Italian Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the populist Five Star Movement, has accused European countries of continuing with colonisition of Africa.
He blamed Europe, France above all, of colonising and impoverishing Africa, a situation he said was forcing people to leave and migrate to Europe. He said France had “never stopped colonising tens of African states” and that if it wasn’t for Africa, most European countries like France would not be among the world’s leading economies.
“If Europe wants to be brave, it must have the courage to confront the issue of decolonisation in Africa. If people are leaving today it’s because European countries, France above all, have never stopped colonising dozens of African countries,” said Di Maio.
He accused France of manipulating the economies of African countries that use the CFA franc, a colonial-era currency backed by the French treasury.
“France is one of those countries that by printing money for 14 African states prevents their economic development and contributes to the fact that the refugees leave and then die in the sea or arrive on our coasts,” he said.
He has called on the European Union and the United Nations to impose sanctions on France for its continued colonial policies in Africa.
“The EU should impose sanctions on France and all countries like France that impoverish Africa and make these people leave, because Africans should be in Africa, not at the bottom of the Mediterranean,” he said.
Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini agreed with his Deputy Prime Minister, labelling France as “one of those countries” that take Africa’s wealth away.
France says the CFA franc is a guarantee of financial stability but others have attacked it as a colonial relic and opposition to it has grown in recent years.
The CFA franc is split into two zones, in eight countries that make up the West African Economic and Monetary Union and a further six in the Central African Economic and Monetary Community.
The 14 countries that use the currency are mandated to deposit half their foreign exchange reserves in a French treasury account.
The money itself, as Mr Di Maio correctly says, is printed by France whereas a French official sits on the boards of both central banks, which suggests France retains at least some influence over the decision making process.
Mr Di Maio said France was using this system to finance French public debt.
“France agreed to grant independence to its sub-Saharan Africa colonies,” says Senegalese economist Ndongo Samba Sylla, “provided they accept to use the CFA franc and [France retained] a monopoly on their raw materials.”
And French companies today still have a strong presence in the CFA currency zones.
Meanwhile, the Italian ambassador to France, Teresa Castaldo, was summoned to the foreign ministry in Paris on Monday.