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Shopping frenzy after devaluation in Africa

ABIDJAN (AP) - People in west and central Africa fought in supermarkets and scrambled to fill trolleys while clerks raced to double prices yesterday, the day after the African franc lost half its value. The devaluation of the French-backed currency caused turmoil across the 14 former French colonies as prices shot up. Labour leaders warned of strikes and food riots.

'It will cause economic and social catastrophe,' said Mathias Ndzon, director general of the International Bank of Congo. Under pressure from world financial institutions which said the currency was overvalued, 14 nations agreed on Tuesday to devalue the CFA franc by 50 per cent.

Shoppers in the countries affected cleared shelves before prices could be changed, amid reports of hoarding. Burkina Faso announced a price freeze, and Ivory Coast followed suit after stores began doubling the prices of imported goods.