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Vol 39 No 11

Published 29th May 1998

The euro cometh

No one knows exactly how hard the new European currency will hit the Franc Zone

Is France finally decolonising its African partners? Or is Paris still trying to have it both ways? These questions dominated the Third Convention Euro-Africaine in Bordeaux, France, on 19-20 May. Amid the throng of mainly French and Francophone businessmen, financiers and politicians, Ivorians were conspicuous, led by the only African President attending, Henri Konan Bédié. Since the CFA franc was devalued in January 1994, successive French governments under Edouard Balladur, Alain Juppé and now Lionel Jospin have followed much the same policy: to help Franc Zone countries if the International Monetary Fund approves of their policies. Yet French policy-makers would like to keep their old influence, above all in Côte d’Ivoire. French Cooperation Secretary Charles Josselin and Finance Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn still underline that African governments should stay close to France, their 'protector' against American laisser-faire and German budget-cutting. As prospects for growth and investment brighten, African policy-makers may try to do things their own way, finding help wherever they can.

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