According to Wikipedia,
In the 19th century, France established a new empire in Africa and Southeast Asia. In this period France’s conquest of an Empire in Africa was dressed up as a moral crusade. In 1886 Jules Ferry declared; “The higher races have a right over the lower races, they have a duty to civilize the inferior races.” Full citizenship rights – assimilation – were offered, although in reality “assimilation was always receding [and] the colonial populations treated like subjects not citizens.” 
The same attitude that Europeans in general had towards other races at the time. France wound up with control of most of West Africa.
Following the First World War, and even more so after the Second World War, anti-colonial movements began to challenge European authority. France unsuccessfully fought bitter wars in Vietnam and Algeria to keep its empire intact, but by the end of the 1960s many of France’s colonies had gained independence. However, some remaining territories – especially islands and archipelagos – were integrated into France as overseas departments and territories.
This sounds good. But did it really go down this way?
France’s mission civilisatrice left indelible marks on its former territories. Although Francophone African countries acquired statehood and international recognition at independence, they remain the chasse gardée of France. Contrary to expectations, independence did not really alter the lopsided relations France established with its former colonies. Through a web of connections, links, agreements, and pacts, France succeeded in granting a “dependent independence” that continues to haunt African states.
This sounds more like the West African countries I’ve heard of. But what did France do to accomplish this?
Just before France conceded to African demands for independence in the 1960s, it carefully organised its former colonies (CFA countries) in a system of “compulsory solidarity” which consisted of obliging the 14 African states to put 65% of their foreign currency reserves into the French Treasury, plus another 20% for financial liabilities. This means these 14 African countries only ever have access to 15% of their own money! If they need more they have to borrow their own money from the French at commercial rates! And this has been the case since the 1960s.
Believe it or not it gets worse.
France has the first right to buy or reject any natural resources found in the land of the Francophone countries. So even if the African countries can get better prices elsewhere, they can’t sell to anybody until France says it doesn’t need the resources.
In the award of government contracts, French companies must be considered first; only after that can these countries look elsewhere. It doesn’t matter if the CFA countries can obtain better value for money elsewhere.
Presidents of CFA countries that have tried to leave the CFA zone have had political and financial pressure put on them by successive French presidents.
Thus, these African states are French taxpayers – taxed at a staggering rate – yet the citizens of these countries aren’t French and don’t have access to the public goods and services their money helps pay for.
CFA zones are solicited to provide private funding to French politicians during elections in France.
Professor Mamadou Koulibaly, Speaker of the Ivorian National Assembly and Professor of Economics, sheds light on the economic devastation caused to the African member states of the CFA (Communauté Financière d’Afrique – French Community of Africa) zone through their continued link to the French currency – the Franc – in the past and today to the euro:
However, the French authorities have carefully tried to conceal in the African central bank statutes, measures that are sometimes preventative, aimed at avoiding a situation whereby the Operation Accounts become indebted on a permanent basis. Critical matters concerning the operations of the CFA franc are kept top secret and only French Treasury officials are in a position to give the exact amount of money belonging to the CFA zone countries held in the Operations Accounts. Only these French officials can give the level of remuneration as well as the cost of maintaining these accounts. The whole system is shrouded in secrecy; it is opaque and authoritarian.
The CFA zone economies are very vulnerable. The effects caused by the operational mechanism of the CFA franc are asymmetric: The most wasteful countries in the zone are able to use the foreign reserves of other more economically prudent countries. The monetary solidarity of the CFA zone countries benefits the richest of them and encourages the exploitation of the poorest in the zone. The existence of a stable and unified monetary system has not led to the emergence of an efficient and major banking/financial system in the CFA countries. Of the 107 banks within the CFA countries, 42 were declared bankrupt in 1990. The banking networks which were constituted thereafter are strongly dependent on the banks in metropolitan France.
France encourages the CFA countries to live far beyond their means. What difference can you see between Gabon, a member state of the CFA zone whose foreign currency reserves are deposited in France, and Ghana which has its own currency and is not a member of the CFA zone? Or between Cameroon and Kenya? Benin and Tunisia? The balance-sheet that you asked about can be found in the answers to these comparisons.
And what is happening now? When French President Francois Hollande spoke last October at the summit at the Democratic Republic of Congo, this is what PressTV had to say:
For decades, France has contributed directly to the violence and instability that has wracked so much of Africa. Coups, counter-coups, assassinations, destabilization and abductions – perhaps no other country among the colonial powers has afflicted the Earth’s largest continent with so much grief and ruination.
Through a French-imposed Colonial Pact, the “colonies francaises Afrique” were given a new currency, known as the CFA Franc. In all, 14 countries were obliged to adopt the single currency. They included Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali and Senegal in French West Africa, and Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon in French Central Africa. The pact has persisted more than five decades after France granted formal independence to its African colonies in the early 1960s.
The level of power usurped from these countries by France through monetary control is astounding. All members of the CFA Franc are mandated to deposit up to 85 per cent of their country’s foreign exchange earnings in the French national treasury. France in turn has the right to invest this money in the Paris Bourse as it sees fit and it has the prerogative not to disclose to the African governments how much these investments earn. Not only that but the French treasury is able to lend the money back to the African nations with interest charged to them for the privilege of borrowing their own money. Moreover, the loans are capped at a limit of 20 per cent of the countries’ current public revenues.
As political commentator Christof Lehmann notes, “It is a scandal that under the French monetary system so much of Africa remains poor and starving instead of benefiting from the vast natural wealth of the continent and the productivity of its people. Through monetary dominance exerted by Paris, Africa is propping up the economy of France and in turn the economy of Europe.”
Lehmann also points out that history shows that any African political leader who tried to break the Francafrique system of exploitation was invariably liquidated by France through coup d’etat or assassination.
And now oil has been found in Northern Mali. CIA funded Al Qaeda Islamists are trying to take control of the area through Libya. The French are back with troops. The violence has spilled into Algeria, another French colony. The Americans are providing assistance to the French.
But at what cost to the people of Mali and Algeria?