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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 September, 2004, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
West Africa ditches dirty money
Cotton-weaver in Mali
Those who live in rural areas may not hear about the switch
The eight West African states that use the CFA franc are replacing their banknotes in an effort to clamp down on forgeries and disease-ridden notes.

Residents of the eight countries have until the end of the year to exchange their CFA franc notes for new bills that are harder to copy and cleaner.

But there are fears that the news might not reach rural areas and farmers could lose their life savings.

Many poorly educated peasants keep their savings in cash under their beds.

The new, colourful notes have a more modern appearance.

While keeping their distinctive African style, using traditional designs, they now depict trains, aeroplanes and satellite dishes on the front, and animals on the reverse side.

Banks robbed

Another reason for the new notes is to prevent banknotes stolen in Ivory Coast from being laundered.

Three branches of the West African States' Central Bank (BCEAO) have been attacked or looted in the past two years of unrest.

A 10,000 CFA franc note
The new notes have a more modern theme
Some traders welcome the new notes, saying they are scared of catching diseases by touching the old ones.

"The old ones, they are just disgusting," merchant Mohammed Hussein told AP news agency.

He washes his hands every time he touches a banknote.

BCEAO Ivory Coast director Kablan Yao Sahi admits the risk that people could lose their savings but says that the information campaign has been conducted in local languages across the country.

People will be able to swap their old notes at banks and post offices around the region.

However, the BBC's James Copnall in Abidjan points out that national radio only covers 30% of the country.

Stable currency

There are fears also that the new 5,000 CFA franc note, which is a different colour from the old one, will enable unscrupulous traders to short-change the illiterate.

The CFA franc, backed by the French treasury, was introduced in 1945 in order to provide former French colonies with a stable currency.

Originally tied to the French franc, it is now pegged to the single European currency at a rate of 656 CFA francs to one euro.

The eight West African countries affected by the currency changeover are Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Niger, Togo, Benin, and Guinea Bissau.

The CFA franc is also used by six Central African countries - Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon.

The CFA franc notes in circulation in Central Africa are issued by a separate institution - the Bank of the Central African States.


SEE ALSO:
CFA franc states urged to reform
15 Apr 04  |  Business
West African central bank robbed
29 Aug 02  |  Business


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