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Human Rights Foundation

Fighting Back Against Monetary Colonialism | HRF at SXSW

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In the fall of 1993, a young three-year-old Togolese girl named Farida Naburema had a bright future. She was too young to realize it, but thanks to her industrious, frugal parents, she would have the means to pursue a meaningful education and career. But when Farida's family woke up on the morning of January 12, 1994, everything had changed. Overnight, her parents lost half of their savings, not due to theft, bank robbery, or company bankruptcy, but a currency devaluation imposed by a foreign power more than 4,500 kilometers away. The previous evening, French officials and IMF bureaucrats met in Dakar to discuss the fate of the Sifa franc.

For years, the currency used by citizens of Togo and other West and Central African nations had been pegged to the French franc at a rate of 1 to 50. But when the late-night meeting concluded, it was 1 to 100. The economic fates of tens of millions of people had been decided by French leaders, with the complicity of pro-French rulers of countries such as Togo and Ivory Coast. This is French monetary colonialism, an exploitative system of monetary control which has outlasted political colonialism and allowed France to retain control over the economies of 15 African countries and subsidize the French way of life.

Despite decades of uprisings, the system stands to this day, but is now being challenged by a new form of resistance, open source code. At the height of its imperialism, the French colonial empire stretched over 11. 5 million square kilometers. After World War II, the French had fought tooth and nail to keep their colonial possessions, but eventually were forced to give them up. However, the benefits of the resources and labor of French colonies in West and Central Africa were too rich. Paris devised a scheme to have its cake and eat it too, ending political colonialism while orchestrating monetary colonialism. This was the birth of the Cifa franc.

The French understand that by controlling the colonial franc currency, also known as the Cifa franc, it increases its power against its former colonies and allows it to siphon the wealth back to Paris in numerous ways. The Cifa franc was originally introduced in 1945. By the 1990s, it had been devalued by 99. 5%. The Cifa farmers and producers have no recourse. France still manufactures all of the notes and coins used in the Cifa regions, charging 45 million euros per year for the service. And if Cifa residents want to travel abroad, they're forced to convert their colonial francs to euros, as the Cifa currency is worthless outside their countries. France, again, takes its cut.

With the guise of generosity, France grants loans to its Cifa nations for infrastructure developments, but the work is contracted to French companies. This is the infamous double loan. The taxpayers of countries like Ivory Coast are on the hook for the entire loan plus interest, while the French get paid back twice. First, in an immediate sense, when the loan is used to pay a French company to complete a project, and then later, when the principal plus interest is paid back on the loan.

By denying Cifa nations the ability to produce their own manufacturing-based economies, and by steering Cifa nations away from consumption agriculture and towards producing inedible exports designed for world markets, they eliminate sovereignty and engineer dependence. Today, the Cifa system has been Africanized. Togo's currency now shows local culture and flora and fauna, but these are only superficial changes. The banknotes are still made in Paris. French officials still sit on the boards of two of the three regional Cifa banks, and the wealth generated by the French authorities in the first seven decades of the Cifa system, when Paris got to keep national reserves and dictate monetary policy, has not been returned.

The World Bank and IMF work in concert with France to enforce the Cifa system, and rarely, if ever, criticize its exploitative nature. The IMF managing director position has often been held by a French official, recently Christine Lagarde. Contradicting the values of liberté, égalité, fraternité, French officials have propped up tyrants to enforce the Cifa zone for the past six decades. Omar Bongo in Gabon, Paul Beer in Cameroon, and Nassim Bey Eyadema in Togo have amassed 120 years in power between them. Those who resisted French rule have paid a heavy price. Togo's first post-colonial leader, Sylvanus Olympio, formally moved to create a central bank of Togo and a Togolese franc.

January 13, 1963, days before he was about to cement this transition, he was shot dead by former Togolese soldiers enrolled in the French colonial army. A few days later, Farida Naburema's grandfather and his comrades were arrested and tortured by the military for organizing against the puppet government the French had installed. Nassim Bey Eyadema was one of the soldiers who committed the crime. He later seized power and became Togo's dictator, with full French support, ruling for more than five decades and promoting the Cifa franc until his death from 1967 to 2005. His son rules to this day.

Olympia's murder was just one of the many ways in which France has punished those who would overthrow its rule. Whether it was France collapsing the Malian economy by rendering the Malian franc inconvertible or by pouring huge quantities of counterfeited banknotes into the Guinean economy, their retribution is brutal. Learning about the 1994 devaluation of the Cifa franc opened Farida's eyes to the ways in which currency is used as a mechanism of control. Farida's father had his bank account restricted because of his pro-democracy activism. Farida, fearing the same retribution, has turned to Bitcoin, which has been a financial lifeline to keep the democracy movement going inside Togo's dictatorship.

When I discovered Bitcoin, I realized it was a cultural, scientific, and most importantly, economic revolution all bundled into one. People in the West might be skeptical about Bitcoin. If you have Venmo and CashApp, you might not see why it is important. But when you go to Togo, more than 75% of the people have never set foot in a bank. Today, Africa is made up of 54 countries and an incredible 46 currencies. Bitcoin gives Africans the ability to unite on one monetary standard, controlled neither by dictators nor by colonial powers. Money and currency are buried beneath the surface in the global human rights movement.

They hardly ever come up at human rights conferences and are rarely discussed among activists. Monetary repression continues to be hidden and not spoken of in polite circles. The reality today for the 182 million people living in Cifa nations is that while they may be politically independent in name, their economies and money are still under colonial rule. But even monetary independence from France would not guarantee that they will perform well, or that the country's leaders will not abuse the currency. Today, Farida and like-minded activists are spreading the word of Bitcoin. It is clear that people are in need of the currency that actually breaks the will, one that cannot be manipulated by governments of any kind.

Cameroonian economist Joseph Chunjang-Poemi wrote, Monet, servitude et liberté. The thesis? Monetary dependence is the foundation of all other forms of dependence. The final words of the book ring especially strong today. Africa's fate will be forged through money, or it won't be forged at all. Thank you for watching!.



Skrybot. 2023, Transkrypcje video z YouTube

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