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Nick Gillespie and Regan Taylor | 9.15.2021 11:42 AM
When Fodé Diop was a high school senior growing up in Senegal, he was accepted to Emporia State University in Kansas to study engineering and play basketball. But before enrolling, the value of the tuition money his father had set aside was cut in half overnight because of a backroom deal spearheaded by the International Monetary Fund and the French government, which still controls the currency of more than a dozen African countries due to a treaty ratified at the end of World War II.
His experience is what led to Diop's current career as a software developer working to make bitcoin easy to use as a medium of exchange for anyone in Senegal with a smartphone. Reason talked with Diop about bitcoin's potential to end monetary colonialism at the annual Bitcoin conference held in Miami earlier this year (Bitcoin 2022 will take place April 6–9 of next year).
When France ratified the Bretton Woods Agreement in 1945, it gained control over the currencies of 14 African nations, including Senegal. On the morning of January 11, 1994, the CFA franc was pegged to the French franc at a valuation of 1 to 50. The following day, it was cut to 1 to 100, after the French government gave in to pressure from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to devalue the currency. Not only did this temporarily crush Diop's college dreams, it also led to widespread political unrest, as West Africa's subsistence farmers could no longer afford to import essential goods, including drugs to treat malaria. "The cruel irony was that the economic fate of millions of Senegalese was completely out of their own hands. No amount of protest could overthrow their economic masters," notes the Human Rights Foundation's Alex Gladstein in a recent article in Bitcoin Magazine, which also recounts Diop's story.
Diop's father was eventually able to pull together the money and Diop got to attend college after all. After graduating, he came across a video featuring the Senegalese scientist and historian Cheikh Anta Diop (no relation), criticizing the French-African monetary system.
Watch the video:
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