Fiat Currencies at the Local Level:
Senegal's "Bons de Travail"

In the Grand-Yoff district of Senegal's capital of Dakar, an initiative is underway to introduce a local currency. This project, supported by the West-African NGOs GRAF (Groupe Recherche Action Formation) and ENDA Tiers-Monde, uses an existing network of credit unions through which to implement the project. The coordinator, Mr. Hassan Aslafy, became experienced with LETS systems in France and after returning to his home country decided to start a system there.

After several workshops promoting the concept, the first community exchange group was formed in March of 1998. The group, called Doole, means "force" in the main local language. A coordinating group of 6 people were formed, and a list of offers and requests produced. The group then began to organize monthly markets through which to introduce the currency, the first taking place two months later, in May. The market has now blossomed from 52 participants as of May 1998 to over 150 one month later.

With funding from ENDA, notes were printed and began to circulate in April. The currency notes, called "bons de travail" are denominated in hours. One hour is equal to 1000 francs CFA or about $1.50 in US dollars. It costs 500 f CFA (.75 US) to join the system, and in return receive "bons" with a value of 5 hours, 5000 francs CFA or $7.50 US.

The currency has not yet come to be substituted for national currency on a large-scale in the area, instead it is being used as payment for education, as the Doole group is planning to open a Popular University. After publishing the bulletin of Offers and Requests, it was discovered that the demand for education and training was very high. During the market in June, 5 priority areas were identified: computer literacy, language skills, commercial skills, agriculture skills, and local production skills. The plan is to seek trainers from the local community to begin teaching students at a ratio of about 1:10. Every student pays one 'bon' for one hour of training, which will go towards paying the trainer, and to finance administration, promotion and local projects such as planting trees, building a community centre, etc.

As the Credit Unions that are participating in this project are mostly run by and for women, the Coordination Group of Doole is primarily composed of women. This group makes the key decisions, and carries out the activities of the Group. They decide when and where to hold markets, how much currency to issue, how to best serve the needs of participants, etc. The members are currently self-chosen volunteers, those with time and knowledge or experience to contribute. As the project grows, regulation will be introduced to ensure democratic representation and function.

An Administration Committee, advised by an ENDA economist, supports the Coordination Group's efforts by carrying out tasks such as maintaining the bulletin of Offers and Requests, organizing training sessions, and engaging in promotional activities.

The program is now beginning to expand to other parts of Dakar, and even to the neighbouring country of Mauritania. Soon it may be possible to circulate 'bons' across international borders. However the intention is to expand to 30 districts in Senegal before seeking to expand into the neighbouring countries of Guinea, Mali, Mauritania and the Cote d'Ivoire.

The 'bons' currency is clearly fiat, as it is issued unbacked into the community. A stamp must be affixed each month on the back of the note. One does not have to be a member to participate, anyone can receive 'bons' if they choose. However, the potential acceptability is high as paper money is being used, and there is no administrative involvement in recording transactions.


Hassan Aslafy. Les Systemes D'Echanges Communautaires au Senegal
et en Afrique de L'Ouest. Groupe Recherche Action Formation (GRAF) NGO. Dakar, Senegal. 1998.