The CFA Franc is an umbrella name for two separate yet interchangeable currencies widely used in Africa, namely: West African and Central African CFA Franc. These two currencies share the same monetary value at 655.957 CFA Francs for every Euro. This does not mean, though, that this commonality is permanent. In fact, should the authorities decide to do so, the value of either of the two or even both currencies can change.
It is also worth taking note that the two CFA Franc currencies cannot be used interchangeably; that is, one cannot use the West African CFA Franc in Central African countries, and the Central African CFA Franc cannot be used in West Africa. The currency code for the Central African CFA Franc is “XAF”; for its West African counterpart, “XOF”.
December 1945 saw the creation of the CFA Franc in an effort to save French colonies from the voluntary devaluation that hit the French Franc following the ratification of the Bretton Woods Agreement France had with the United States. The acronym “CFA” originally meant “Colonies francaises d’Afrique” or “French colonies of Africa”; its meaning, though, changed two times in the course of several decades. When the 5th Republic of France was established, CFA came to stand for “Communaute francaise d’Afrique” or “French Community of Africa”. And when the colonies became independent, another change occurred. This time, CFA became the acronym for “Communaute Financiere Africaine”, or “African Financial Community”.
The Central African CFA Franc is used by the following states: Gabon, Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Chad, and Equatorial Guinea. Issuance of this currency is the task of the Bank of the Central African States. A single CFA Franc can be subdivided into 100 centimes; however, no centime denominations has ever been issued.
As opposed to the 6 countries that make use of the Central African CFA Franc, there are actually 8 states that have the West African CFA Franc as their official currency. These are the following: Togo, Niger, Mali, Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Burkina Faso, Benin, and Cote d’Ivoire. The West African CFA Franc is issued by the Central Bank of the West African States.