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GSR Special Series #1: A Tale of Two Cedis (Part One)


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An Allegorical series of blogs that covers a range of topics from international currencies to rural development in an engaging free flowing manner.

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GSR Special Series #1: A Tale of Two Cedis (Part One)

  1. 1. GSR Blog Special Series #1: A Tale of Two Cedis Part One Lilis StoreOnce upon a time two cedis (the currency of Ghana . There are about 1.5 Ghanaian Cedi to$1US) were sitting in the pocket of a street vendor named Lili. Lili had a small stall in theprovincial capital of an African country. It was the end of the day, and business had been prettygood. The proof was these two cedi – the result of 10 hours of sitting in her “shop”! Lili soldoranges and bananas in her tiny shop which she harvested from her family’s small farm 30 milesaway in a small village. Next to Lili’s shop, there was another street vendor selling oranges andbananas, but Lili was not upset about their competition. In fact, in that section of the city, therewere hundreds of informal vendors, and many of them sold oranges and bananas at the sameprice as Lili’s.Lili was very happy about the sales today. Two cedis meant food on the table tonight. Herchildren would each get a bowl of cassava, perhaps with a few beans in it! Unfortunately the twocedis were not so easily mollified. They understood that Lili was living hand to mouth, and somedays, her family did not get enough to eat. They began to speak to each other about what they
  2. 2. might do to make Lili’s future brighter. They had heard about a cedi that hitched a ride to China(there were plenty of shops near Lili’s stall selling cheap Chinese imports. The money to payfor these low quality products went to the factories in China. So the cedi found it easy to get toChina, along with millions of other cedis (and dollars, euros and every other currency)In China,the cedi made its way to an engineering firm engaged in building roads in Lili’s district. The cediwas excited by the company’s work in Ghana – it thought it would be able to go home intriumph, but neither this cedi, nor any of the other millions of cedi that ended up in China evercame back. The labor for the road construction were all Chinese, the building material for theroad was imported from China, and the main beneficiaries of the road were the Chinese miningcompanies that were mining minerals in Lili’s district and exporting them to China. Lili neverreceived a pesewa from the profits from this mining. Neither did any of the other people in Lili’sdistrict. however, Lili indirectly paid a heavy price for the presence of this mine in her district.The mine had ruined a huge area around the mine by digging ore, separating the valuable mineralfrom the useless rock and then dumping the waste. The mine used volatile chemicals, includingmercury and cyanide in the process of separating the valuable minerals from the slag. Thesepoisons gradually leeched into the water table, and the water at the village well was graduallybecoming unsafe to drink. Lili was aware that a growing number of children in her village wereborn with horrible birth defects. If the mining continued much longer, the village might have tobe abandoned and Lili’s family would lose their farm. Photography by Bert Kaufmann