Building on the work of Professor Joseph Tchundjang Pouémi, Kamgang’s contribution at the April 27, 2016 MOCI conference in Yaoundé on the theme-- "Money, Servitude and Citizenship", sounds a call to awareness.
Money, Servitude and Liberty: The monetary repression of Africa, is the title of the now classic book published by the late Professor Joseph Tchundjang Pouémi in 1980 by Editions Jeune Afrique, Paris. This book marked such a turning point in the understanding of the monetary issue that we took the initiative to create, in 1998, a non-profit organization called "The Tchundjang-Pouémi Movement for Popular Education on Monetary and Economic Issues (MTP), standing for “Money - Pan Africanism - Liberty." We are guided by the sequential logic that flows from this slogan. Following this logic, after summarizing the thought contained in Money, Servitude and Liberty…we demonstrate how implementing Pan Africanism will free Africans from all bondage imposed from abroad.
Citing Professor Jacques Rueff, Tchundjang Pouémi opens his book with an epigraph--"Man's destiny is played out in currency." To stick as close to the conference theme, Professor Rueff paraphrased as follows: "The destiny of citizens is played out in currency." The gist of Tchundjang Pouémi’s thinking is that when money is free and well managed, it contributes to social progress and, therefore, happiness. Unfortunately, in Africa, money is suppressed at two levels. At the first level, it is the heads of African states who are self-supressing. At this level, two situations are observable. On one hand, the countries of the franc zone, giving up monetary sovereignty to France, are prolonging the colonial period and the outright exploitation of their people, exactly as before independence. On the other hand, countries that have recovered their monetary sovereignty after independence are guilty of self-repressive techniques (excluding Africans from the banking system, negative interest rates, cash flow to businesses belonging to foreigners, and price controls). A follower of John Maynard Keynes, Tchundjang Pouémi advocates full employment measures, which alone could lift a country out of a mass underemployment situation.
The first part of the book ends with the study of six cases of self-repression. Two which grab our attention are Ivory Coast and Zaire. Ivory Coast was presented as a model of good governance under Félix Houphouët-Boigny, who, Tchundjang Pouémi wrote, "sees far and sees big." People spoke of the "Ivorian miracle!" Like most African countries in early 1960, Ivory Coast had a level of development comparable to that of South Korea, until mid-1970. The rules of the franc zone have prevented Ivory Coast from keeping up the “land of Morning Calm”. On the one hand, lenders rates (those that pay savings) are higher in France than in Africa’s franc zone, which drains savings towards France that could be used to finance the creation of SMEs/SMIs (Small and Medium Enterprises/Industries). On the other hand, interest expense rates (those paid by the recipients of bank credit) are exorbitant, preventing any profitable activity financed by banks.
But it would have been necessary to have more numerous and varied SMEs/SMIs, and related infrastructure (ports, roads, highways, electricity, etc.)--which the Ivory Coast at the time was already better equipped with than Cameroon in 2016--to create jobs and wealth for the people, for the country to have taken off. Some people believe that Tchundjang Pouémi had been an economic adviser to Houphouët-Boigny. If true, the least we can say is that he did not listen to him on this! As for Zaïre, Mobutu Sese Seko created the Zaïre in 1967. A Zaïre was then worth two US dollars. The commercial banks, expected to borrow from the (Central) Zaire Bank and then lend to wealth creators, were all Belgian. They decided to ignore the Bank of Zaire: there were no credits to producers of wealth, so no wealth, and therefore no tax revenue. Guess what: Mobutu had to resort to printing money to finance his administration and Zaire collapsed, entering a vicious cycle of cumulative devaluations. When we talk of leaving the BEAC (Bank of Central African States) to create the UM, it reminds us of the red cloth sacks of zaïres that one needed to carry in order to buy a baguette under Mobutu.
The second part of the book deals with the second level of monetary repression in Africa. This stems from the way the international monetary system is structured and functions. Even if money had been well managed in Africa, monetary disorder, created on purpose and increasingly aggravated by the United States since the Bretton Woods agreements were signed in 1944, to establish their hegemony on the planet Earth; the monetary disorders, we have said, have complicated the task for Africans. Tchundjang Pouémi refers particularly to the IMF, which he called Instant Misery Fund. Dying violently on December 27, 1984, in as-yet-unsolved mysterious circumstances, he was not around to see the imposition of structural adjustment programs in Cameroon. But he had warned against the use of the "services" of the IMF. To quote him: "There will always be difficulties in the matter of monetary cooperation, as long as Africa does not circulate a single currency issued by a single authentically African political authority." (page 229). Here is the last sentence of his book: "Africa will succeed through currency, or it will not happen!"
An emblematic figure of Pan-Africanism, Kwame Nkrumah had proposed in May 1963 in Addis Ababa, “a political Union based on the defense, foreign affairs and diplomacy; on common citizenship, an African currency, a monetary zone and an African Central Bank.” While the participating heads of state at the conference preferred to create the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the project of political unity for Africa was only to be put off for later, as evidenced by the following extract from the closing speech by Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, host country of the meeting: “While recognizing that the future of this continent lies ultimately in a political union, we must also recognize that the obstacles to be overcome are many and difficult. Therefore, a period of transition is inevitable ... Regional organizations can perform functions and needs which could not be accomplished otherwise. But what is different here is that we recognize these situations for what they are worth, that is to say as substitutes and temporary expedients which we use until we have achieved the conditions that place complete African unity within our grasp.”
“We must unite in order to achieve the total liberation of our continent; we need a common defense system with an African High Command to ensure the stability and security of our country.” (Kwame Nkrumah). In October 2015, responding to Chad’s Head of State Idriss Deby, who had previously criticized the rules of the franc zone, Michel Sapin, French finance minister, declared that “the franc zone is not fixed. This is a zone that is dynamic. And if there are proposals for change proposed, at the academic level or at the political level, well, we will discuss together with the spirit of respect and equality.” Thus, people were waiting for the meeting of finance ministers and governors of the Central Bank held on April 8 and 9, 2016 in Yaoundé to provide evidence of "proposals for change at the political level.” Clearly, this did not happen. At the end, did you members of the press ask about this at the closing press conference? Personally, I learned nothing but that the status quo was maintained and that the Africa populations of the franc zone will continue to suffer the monetary repression denounced at the academic level by Joseph Tchundjang Pouémi, as described above.
In an official document entitled “Cameroon Vision 2035”, published in 2009 by the Cameroon Ministry of Economy, Planning, and Regional Development, page 56 states the following: “If the securing of CFA francs to the Euro allows for the imposition of a fixed exchange rate that avoids excesses and ensures international credibility, it nevertheless carries two heavy costs: first, it deprives Cameroon of a major instrument of economic management, monetary policy, which is a considerable handicap for directing a proactive strategy of development; secondly, securing the CFA franc to the Euro, which has proved to be a very inflexible currency, causes its permanent overvaluation, a slowdown in exports, and a surplus of imports which greatly hinder the competitiveness of the national economy. The CFA franc prevents economies that use it from being competitive!
We are living through the crisis of the nation-state in Africa. Blocked from having the critical mass to power self-development, the territories bequeathed by colonialism that we wanted to build into nations have become objects coveted by rival groups: those who have the power are desperate to maintain it at all costs, especially in Central Africa, causing situations of tension and insecurity for their citizens ... Even elsewhere where actors, forced by events, consent to alternate power, things are no better. We saw this in Mali, once presented as an alternate "democratic" model until some jihadists just reminded us that the problem of African states does not arise in terms of political rotation, but the abolition of neocolonialism where it occurs, and political unity throughout Africa.
We know that the solution lies in the implementation of Pan-Africanism. There is no alternative! And we created the Union of African Populations (UPA-Party of the Pan-Africanist vanguard) to gain power in order to use the resources of the state for this purpose. The title of our book (Hubert Kamgang, Cameroon in the Twenty-First Century: Leave CEMAC, then work towards a single currency within a United States of Africa, African Renaissance Publishing, Yaoundé, 2000) summarizes the vision of UPA. We are launching a strong appeal to youth, so that they see UPA as the only valid vision for Cameroon and Africa. Young people must engage in action for their future, adhering without delay to the party whose objectives are: The immediate liberation of Cameroon from neocolonialism--that is to say the completion of independence through the creation of a Cameroonian currency as a prerequisite to our economic independence; and the creation of a United States of Africa so that Africans are no longer humiliated, exploited, and butchered as they have been for five centuries. The time of the builders of great African Nation has sounded, and we are calling on our youth. Neo-Pan-Africanism must serve as a banner to Cameroonian and African youth, who should not be paralyzed by the needs of their daily lives, or the difficulties of the moment.