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African Currency: BCEAO Issues New 500 CFA Bill

The Banque Centrale des États de L'Afrique de L'Ouest introduces a new 500 CFA bill


Put into circulation 30 November 2012, few people have yet to touch a crisp new 500 Franc CFA bill.  The new paper denomination will augment the two-toned 500cfa coin already in circulation, metal being more expensive to produce than paper.  The currency (XOF) is issued by the Banque Centrale des États de L'Afrique de L'Ouest (BCEAO) and is colloquially known as the "Franc CFA."  CFA (pronounced Séi-Fah) is used throughout Francophone West Africa in the eight countries of the Union Économique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine (UEMOA): Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinée-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo. Pegged to the Euro at a rate of 655 XOF to 1 EUR, 500cfa is roughly equivalent to 1 USD.

In Dakar, where the issuing BCEAO is headquartered, 500 cfa means a short taxi ride, cups of café touba for your whole 10-person crew, a pair of flip-flops, a tip for a friendly bartender, a plate of thiére. "Témeer," the more diminutive Wolof appellation, is a unit perpetually in exchange for little things. Although true that the 500cfa coin fits quite nicely into the fifth pocket of jeans, the paper version continues an awesome tradition of illustrating 21st century economic visions with still lives of technology and wildlife.

The 10,000 cfa bill has pictures of satellites, satellite dishes, and an "@" sign on one side and yellow-beaked turaco birds on other. 5000 cfa boasts agro tech and antelopes, 2000 cfa has air transit and fish, 1000 cfa showcases pharmaceuticals and camels, and now the 500 cfa: Hippos and ipads!  "The tablet touch screen symbolizes information technology and communication," says Cheick Ahmed Tidiany Diakité, BCEAO Director of Fiduciary Activities.  No sign as to whether the paper bill will make the perennial hassle of getting change back any easier.

For other choice examples of the BCEAO aesthetic, check out these two modernist gems:

BCEAO HQ, Dakar. An ominous tower of babel like structure, best viewed in Djibril Diop Mambety's first film Contras City. Photo Credit: GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images.

BCEAO, Senegalese National Branch, Dakar. A pyramid or bird spreading its wings depending on who you ask, the building marks the border of Centenaire - aka Dakar Chinatown - and was one of the city's first buildings built with Chinese labor.

Interview
Photo by Trevor Stuurman.

Interview: Thando Hopa Never Anticipated Acceptance in the Industry—She Anticipated a Fight

We speak to the South African lawyer, model, actress and activist about her historic Vogue cover, stereotypes imposed on people living with albinism and her work with human interest stories about vulnerable groups as a WEF fellow.

Vogue Portugal's April edition was a moment that caused everyone to hold their breath collectively. For the first time ever, a woman living with albinism was featured on the cover of the magazine in a sublime and timeless manner. Thando Hopa, a South African lawyer, model, actress and activist was the woman behind this historic first. It was not just a personal win for Hopa, but a victory for a community that continues to be underrepresented, stigmatised and even harmed for a condition outside of their control, particularly in Africa.

At just 31, the multi-hyphenate Hopa is a force to be reckoned with across different spaces. Through her considerable advocacy work as an activist, Hopa has and continues to dispel stereotypes and misconceptions about people living with albinism as well as changing what complex representation looks like within mainstream media. In 2018, Hopa was named the one of the world's 100 most influential women by the BBC. After hanging up her gown as a legal prosecutor after four years of working with victims of sexual assault, Hopa is on a mission to change skewed perceptions and prejudices when it comes to standards of beauty.

As a current fellow at the World Economic Forum, she is also working towards changing editorial oversights that occur when depicting historically underrepresented and vulnerable groups. The fellowship programme prepares individuals for leadership in both public and private sectors, and to work across all spheres of global society.

OkayAfrica recently spoke to Hopa to find out about how it felt to be the first woman with albinism to be featured on Vogue, the current projects she's working on and what's in the pipeline for her.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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