Bitcoin

Bitcoin: 'A Weapon for Us To Fight Oppression'

Senegalese app developer Fodé Diop sees bitcoin as a way to end "monetary colonialism" in the developing world.

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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.

Fodé Diop says that was the first of three awakenings that set him on his current career path. The second was watching Steve Job's famous 2007 announcement of the iPhone, which ultimately led him to consider how poorly traditional banks serve the citizens of Senegal. Job's hand-held computer created an opportunity to circumvent these institutions altogether. But Job's revolutionary new communication device needed a decentralized monetary system to match, which is where Diop's third awakening comes in.

In 2008, the pseudonymous hacker Satoshi Nakamoto published the groundbreaking paper, "Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System," helping to launch an alternative monetary and banking system independent of conventional institutions and central banks.

But the bitcoin network alone isn't well-suited to becoming a medium of exchange for everyday purchases in Senegal or anywhere else. That's because it currently has the capacity to process only a handful of transactions per second, far less than payment systems like Visa or Mastercard. The Lightning Network, a payment protocol layered on top of bitcoin, is a way to facilitate fast transactions while maintaining the decentralized structure of bitcoin. Through bitcoin and ubiquitous smartphones, Diop thinks it's possible to build a new free market monetary system that will finally liberate Senegal and other African countries from the last vestiges of colonialism.

Produced by Regan Taylor and Isaac Reese. Interview by Nick Gillespie. Cameras by Jim Epstein and Noor Greene.

Music Credits: Run All Night by Stanley Gurvich on Artlist and The Blue Jay by Mintz on Artlist

Photo Credits: Photo by Shahadat Rahman on Unsplash; Fodé Diop LinkedIn; Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash; Photo by Teemu Paananen on Unsplash; Photo by André François McKenzie on Unsplash; Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash; Archives New Zealand from New Zealand, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Touki Bouki (1973), by Djibril Diop Mambéty, Internet Archive; Nicholas Gemini, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Nicholas Gemini, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons; GODONG / BSIP/Newscom; Philippe Lissac / GODONG/picture-alliance / Godong/Newscom; Maksym Yemelyanov/agefotostock/Newscom; IBM Corporation / IBM Direct / IBM K-12 Assist Group / IBM Publications, Internet Archive; Bashir Darwish/UPI/Newscom; Jimmy Villalta / VWPics/Newscom; Stefan Kleinowitz/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; Photo by Armand Khoury on Unsplash; Michele Spatari/ZUMA Press/Newscom; New York Times via archive.org; Ji-Elle, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; Michele Spatari/ZUMA Press/Newscom; World Economic Forum, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Ji-Elle, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; Ji-Elle, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; Ji-Elle, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; Photo by Krzysztof Hepner on Unsplash; Photo by Benjamin Dada on Unsplash; Photo by Executium on Unsplash; Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash; Photo by Brightness on Unsplash; H. Grobe, CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons; Alex Gorzen, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons; James R. Garvey/Emporia State University; Apple, cultofmac.com; Victorgrigas, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Photo by Hugh Han on Unsplash; Matthew Yohe at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons; Photo by Rasheed Kemy on Unsplash; Photo by ROBIN WORRALL on Unsplash; Photo by Jezael Melgoza on Unsplash; Photo by Etienne Martin on Unsplash; Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash; Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash

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  1. I sure hope he’s right.

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  2. Fuck Joe Biden

  3. Bitcoin is doomed, just for this reason.

    1. This. Unless they find a way to control it.

      1. The horse is pretty much out of the barn. They can make it nearly impossible to exchange BTC for dollars, but then they need to have a word with Musk, and Cook, and Dorsey and Chase and Goldman Sacks. Those companies have all gone deep into the BTC hole. Are they going to let some pissant senator render their money worthless over night? Nope.

        1. This is exactly how I knew BTC was in the free and clear. Once the big money is in, the politicians follow.

        2. they need to have a word with Musk

          Maybe you missed that Musk rescinded the ability to pay for Teslas with BTC. Word has already been had, Musk agreed.

  4. “A weapon to fight against reality, you mean.”

  5. Yeah if you think this is gonna set you free you’ll be waiting a long time.

    Swift ones know how to take over markets they have money lawyers politicians you name it. We are reverting to feudalism currently we have oligarchs notice how they masked up the black people at their famous ball.

    1. “Swift ones?” I hope and trust you mean Liliputians, Struldbrugs, Houyhnhnms, or Yahoos?

  6. This is silly. All you have to notice is that this is a black guy saying this shit and we all know black people are too stupid to even figure out how to go about getting an ID. Hell, if it weren’t for white people telling them what’s in their own best interests and looking after them as if they were little children or cute little monkeys, it’s doubtful that black people would even be able to figure out how to eat with a fork.

    1. You sound positively Democratic today, Jerryskids. Did you go watch a Chuck Schumer speech again?

  7. Washington will bend it to its will or shoot it in the back of the head and rule it a suicide.

  8. When France ratified the Bretton Woods Agreement in 1945, it gained control over the currencies of 14 African nations, including Senegal.

    So the country that got its ass kicked up and down in WW2 got to keep control over their colonies.

    1. All that monetary power and they still don’t bathe and pee in the streets?
      What’s their excuse?

  9. The beauty of Bitcoin is that all the information is there for you to see with your own eyes. You don’t have to trust some reporter or politician telling you that the money is there. I have a raspberry pi sitting on my desk that verifies every single block published on the blockchain. I can put that into a visualizer on the Pi and see every transaction that ever happened.

    The emails to the cypherpunks email list has been publicly archived all around the internet. You can go read what Satoshi and others were talking about for the first years of the blockchain’s life. You can read the emails turned over by Hal Finney where Satoshi and him make the first BTC exchanges- and go to the blockchain that is stored on your computer and see them occur.

    Computer scientists have mined the blockchain for evidence of how Satoshi spent the first year ensuring that Bitcoin couldn’t be 51% attacked by running his own mining pool (years before the first pools were organized). And after all that, he disappeared. We can see everything we want about the blockchain, but we cannot know its creator’s identity. But I read through the radical theories on the cypherpunks list, and I realize I do know him, even if I don’t know their name(s).

    1. Yeah, but is it based in Gold, Silver, Platinum, or another precious metal?

      Can it serve as a check on unlimited spending by the likes of Sleepy, Creepy, Crazy, Cranky, Tankie, Corn-Pop, Lunch-Bucket, Basement Bunker, Shotgun, Pudding Cup Joe Biden? (And I almost forgot to tell him “Fuck you.” Damn, I’m losing it.)

      1. “Yeah, but is it based in Gold, Silver, Platinum, or another precious metal?”

        No but that doesn’t matter. Hard currency isn’t by definition metal. Rather, metal is *a* hard currency because it meets the definition.

        Generally, a hard currency needs to be durable, portable, divisible, uniform and acceptable. Bitcoin (and other forms of currency) meets all of these conditions except for Acceptable (and given that some of the largest companies in the world are now accepting it, that is changing). In fact, for durability, portability and divisability, Bitcoin is substantially better.

        “Can it serve as a check on unlimited spending by the likes of…Joe Biden”

        Well that depends on the dollar, not Bitcoin. I’m convinced that at some point people are going to stop accepting the dollar because they don’t like owning a currency that is losing value constantly. At that point, I hope that I have had enough time where Bitcoin owners were accepting my dollars that it doesn’t impact me.

        1. So, doesn’t this mean that Bitcoin and the Dollar are equally at risk of being unacceptable?

          And wouldn’t this mean that Bitcoin is only a good currency to invest in and use insofar as you can exchange it for Legal Tender up to the point where the Legal Tender is rendered worthless and unacceptable? Doesn’t that mean the ones who got in on Bitcoin earliest and time their exchange best get the jackpot and all the others get shafted?

          And doesn’t the Dollar get closer to worthless every time our Federal Government wants to spend Trillions, which is basically every time there’s a change of Depends by Sleepy, Creepy, Crazy, Cranky, Rankie, Corn-Pop, Lunch-Bucket, Basement-Bunker, Shotgun, Pudding-Cup Joe Biden? (Fuck Be Unto Him)?

          Without backing by a precious Metal, it sounds like Bitcoin versus the Dollar is just six of one and half-a-dozen of another.

          And the whole thing stinks of a Ponzi Scheme. We’ve already got a bad enough Ponzi Scheme with compulsory Social Security. Why stack another voluntary Ponzi Scheme on top of that?

      2. Fuck Joe Biden answers all relevant questions.

  10. >>Emporia State University in Kansas

    grandma taught English @Emporia State

  11. The Lightning Network, a payment protocol layered on top of bitcoin, is a way to facilitate fast transactions while maintaining the decentralized structure of bitcoin.

    It specifically does not maintain the decentralized structure. It doesn’t prevent it, but it was specifically created to circumvent (lag intrinsically associated with) the decentralized structure.

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    1. But do your escorts accept Bitcoin?

  16. So, you’re contrasting the halving of purchasing power that comes with halving a currency peg, with bitcoin? You realize the assets in developing countries like still-most of Africa would likely be declining in real value faster over time than the diminution from this peg cut, right?

    The sob story about the almost-didn’t-go-to-college-but-then-did-anyway guy wouldn’t have changed. Probably, it would’ve happened to that family years earlier instead. When a relative wanted to make a big spend and they were going to sell some family asset to pay for it, but oops, inflation, and the asset commands less value than you’d hoped because your drunken/warlord/socialist government has been pissing away your country’s wealth.

    A currency peg or otherwise-backed currency provides fiscal discipline, because said drunken/warlord/socialist government can’t use monetary policy to print money for bribing people, to stay in power. I don’t even have to read to know why the IMF wanted the peg halved: the Senegal pegged currency was overvalued, for a long time. The only horror is that the peg cut happened suddenly instead of gradually, but there’s no real way to massage that if there are free capital markets: investors know what’s coming and will reprice assets accordingly before any scheduled stepping down. The short term pain is probably preferable to the extended malaise of repricing your entire state to 50%, over time.

    If, in the dreamed-of hypothetical, they were using just bitcoin then their currency isn’t simply pegged, it’s not theirs at all. It’s effectively the same effect as a currency peg on domestic policy though: the government can’t print money. The effect is the same when the family goat is worth 1/2 as many bitcoins today as it was worth when you last priced it.

    The shitbirds who complain about the oppression of a currency peg are the exact same shitbirds who complain about the oppression of free markets. Someone, somewhere telling you what something is worth, that’s not you. Some external force constraining the Leviathan.

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