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Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, governed by military regimes that came to power through coups, formed the Alliance of Sahel States (AES) in September 2023. It provides for mutual assistance in the event of an attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the three States as well as strengthened economic ties. Since the end of 2023, viral publications claim that this coalition has minted a new currency, with supporting video. In reality, these images are old and show banknotes in Sierra Leone. If on November 25, these three Sahelian countries announced their desire to set up a committee responsible for deepening reflections on questions of economic and monetary union, no new currency has been revealed since.

Dozens of people withdrawing money from an ATM, wads of purple, green and orange banknotes, a t-shirt emblazoned with the inscription – in English – “new currency, same value“… Here are the images of a viral video extract relayed nearly 2,000 times on social networks since December 24, 2023 (link archived here).

Broadcast on Facebook, but also by different TikTok accounts in January and February 2024, this video is adorned with text in red and white letters which claims to reveal “The new money from the AES which is already out (sic)” (archived links here and here).

Acronym “AES” refers here to the Alliance of Sahel States, a diplomatic, economic and security union sealed in September 2023 between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, now led by military regimes.

Screenshot taken on Facebook on February 8, 2024 / Red Cross added by the AFP editorial staff

In parallel with the creation of this alliance, these three Sahel countries announced at the end of January their desire to withdraw from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional economic organization made up of 15 countries which opposed the coups d'état which successively brought to power the military at the head of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

The organization notably imposed heavy economic sanctions on Niger and Mali (link archived here).

This is the new currency, the new currency in Mali. You see the photo, that's the new currency“, says a male voice stumbling over several words, while the images of the video extract of 1'26” pass by.

The voice-over continues in Bamanankan, the national language of Mali which has become an official language since the constitutional revision initiated by the military in power, relegating French to the rank of simple “work language“(archived link here): “Mali and Burkina will create a new currency. I will read to you what has been written on this subject. Listen“, the man calls out.

Good news ! Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, affair of the burial of the CFA franc, since the creation of the Alliance of Sahel States. Many questions arise about the role of this alliance on the monetary level“, he finally adds, in French.

The most widely relayed publication, published on Facebook, has more than 500 comments. The vast majority of them send wishes of encouragement and congratulations to the AES, without calling into question the credibility of the scene, nor the reliability of the accounts which share it.

Screenshot taken on Facebook on February 8, 2024

At the end of November 2023, the ambition to create a common currency was raised by the three countries. Since then, rumors about the circulation of a currency “sahelian“flood social networks, although the conditions for the creation of monetary union are far from being met.

The video purporting to show this new motto has been decontextualized: in reality, these images are from July 2022 and show the new Sierra Leone banknotesa West African country located on the Atlantic coast.

An audio montage from an old video

The TikTok account behind the publication of these images, “paaleofficiel226“, seems to have been deleted. In any case, AFP was not able to identify it on the social network.

Screenshot taken on Facebook on February 8, 2024

To find the original video, we therefore carried out a reverse image search from different screenshots, which led us to a TV report broadcast on the Africanews YouTube channel on July 2, 2022 (link archived here) .

We find exactly the same sequences as in the extract we are checking, as evidenced by the visual comparisons below:

Screenshot of the viral video (left) and the report by Africanews (right) taken on February 8, 2024
Screenshot of the viral video (left) and the report by Africanews (right) taken on February 8, 2024

Sierra Leone: new banknotes with fewer zeros“, reads the caption of the international 24-hour news television channel.

Sierra Leone introduced a new currency on Friday, removing the three zeros from Leone on bank notes. With this change, the country hopes to gain competitiveness on its exports, and fight against inflation which was around 12% in 2021“, also assures the journalist in the report, in voice-over.

The male voice which accompanies the video broadcast on social networks was added to the original images. Basically, its content has no link with the subject of the video, which illustrates the circulation of new bank notes in a country very different from Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.

No Sahelian currency

Rumors around an alleged new common currency between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso began to circulate on social networks at the end of November, less than three months after the creation of the AES.

Since 2020, these three countries have seen officers rise to power by force swearing to take back control of a national destiny abandoned according to them to foreigners, first and foremost the French, and their “valets” local.

They chased away French soldiers and ambassadors, turned to new partners, including the Russians, and called into question an order defended by the Community of West African States (ECOWAS) (link archived here).

Worried about contagion in the face of the succession of putsches, ECOWAS imposed sanctions on them to obtain the return of civilians in charge, and threatened to use force after the most recent one, in Niger. She suspended them from her organs.

Map of member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) including those targeted by sanctions after a coup d'état

The soldiers closed ranks and sealed their solidarity on September 16 by creating the Alliance of Sahel States, whose charter commits the three countries to fight.terrorism“and binds them together with one”duty of assistance and relief” in the face of any aggression.

On January 28, they decided to withdraw their country, with immediate effect, from ECOWAS.

Two months earlier, the Ministers of Economy and Finance of the three Sahel countries had recommended the creation of a stabilization fund and an investment bank, as well as the establishment of a committee responsible for deepen reflections on questions of economic and monetary union.

These recommendations reignited the debate on the CFA franc used in the three countries, but no new currency has been officially instituted or unveiled since.

The leaders of the three countries have not announced their withdrawal from the UEMOA (West African Economic and Monetary Union) which brings together the 8 countries using the CFA franc as currency in West Africa (Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal, Togo, Burkina, Mali, Guinea-Bissau, Niger and Benin).

Supporters of the Alliance of Sahel States (ASS) hold signs reading “no to ECOWAS” during a rally to celebrate the departure of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in Bamako, February 1, 2024 (AFP / OUSMANE MAKAVELI)

The strong criticism formulated by these regimes and their supporters against the CFA franc, the common currency of the WAEMU member countries, could however lead the AES countries to leave this organization, and to renounce the free movement of goods and people while awaiting the emergence of an African continental free trade area, still in the planning stage.

For decades, the CFA franc has fueled a virulent debate between its detractors who denounce it as a“, which perpetuates France's influence in Africa, and its defenders who praise the monetary stability it brings.

The currency, used by 14 countries in West and Central Africa, is indexed to the euro and convertible with the European currency. Until recently, user states had to deposit 50% of their reserves in France.

The situation has changed since 2020 for the eight countries in the UEMOA zone, following the reform of the CFA franc announced in December 2019 by French and Ivorian presidents Emmanuel Macron and Alassane Ouattara.

France has ceased to participate in the governance bodies of the UEMOA, and the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) must no longer deposit half of its foreign exchange reserves with the Banque de France, obligation which was seen as a humiliating dependence on France by detractors of the CFA franc.

One thing does not change, however: the indexation of the currency to the rate of the euro which brings stability to the economies of the countries in the zone but also makes them dependent on the monetary policy of the European Central Bank.

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