Complementary Currencies and South Africa

An historical analysis of complementary currencies and
implications for South Africa

John Quintiliani

Produced for S.A.N.E. Foundation

Table of Contents


Today's global economy has left the majority of nations in a state of drastic income disparity and, more damagingly, extreme and seemingly hopeless poverty in many communities throughout the world. These communities are composed of able-bodied citizens, yet they have been excluded from the national economy, unable to be productive participants. South Africa is like many nations that have endured decades of severe unemployment that have resulted in communities of idle citizens left to wither.

The current money systems have left community members without the income they need to buy and exchange goods and be productive citizens. Although the drastic community breakdown has been caused by the current money systems, its solution is also found in money systems, in particular in complementary currencies. For centuries and with dramatic recent successes, communities have been able to flourish and become active contributors to the national economy, as a direct result of the implementation of well-designed complementary currencies. The complementary currencies give citizens a means of exchange that enables them to create businesses and jobs within the community, uplifting morale and contributing to the formal economy as skilled workers.

Present State of the Global Economy

It is important to analyze the conditions that have led South Africa and other nations to a state of having communities that are both direly poor and idle. For the past century, the global economy has experienced an alarming job problem with little hope for improvement. There has been a gradual age of downsizing since the Industrial Age and more so recently with the Information Age. Frictional unemployment, where people are temporarily unemployed in between jobs, has always been a characteristic of working society. In addition, the presence of cyclical unemployment due to fluctuations in inventories has been a constant element of unemployment. However, the economy is now experiencing a long-term structural trend of increasing unemployment in all sectors. The layoffs now occurring are no longer cyclical layoffs; the automation of production has resulted in fewer and fewer jobs needed to produce enough goods for the world. People have become 'economically irrelevant' due to what has been labeled a 'vicious cycle of unemployment.' For example, after the automation of the cotton-picking process in the United States, the workers were forced to move North to look for jobs. However, the majority ended up jobless and living together in what are now permanently underclass neighborhoods. One would expect that losing jobs in one sector simply means that new jobs have emerged in another sector. Therefore, the former cotton-pickers should be able to get a job in another industry and only experience brief frictional unemployment. However, the training and overall complexity of jobs have increased dramatically, and with the emergence of the Information Age, this is being magnified to an extreme. Less labor is needed to meet production requirements, and the increases in technological advances, specifically the cyber-economy, have extended this process to distribution, retail and service industries. More recently, breakthroughs in nano-technology, the process where objects can be built atom-by-atom, are capable of extending the unemployment problems to unimaginable levels. Nano-technology is capable of creating unlimited assemblers that potentially could completely replace human labor. Even John Maynard Keynes predicted a time where job titles will no longer define people, as unemployment will reach obscenely high levels. While this point is quite far away, there has been a clear structural trend in less labor needed for production requirements causing severe unemployment problems throughout society.

The Sense of Community

Current money systems and policies have left masses of unemployed citizens living idle in communities throughout the world, and more drastically in South Africa. Communities in South Africa have also endured another significant factor that is immeasurable - decades of oppression under Apartheid. They are left to live in communities together, with no work and no money. Unfortunately, this also leads to losing the very sense of community. By definition, the word 'community' is composed of two Latin roots: cum, meaning together, among each other and munus, meaning the gift, or to give. Therefore, 'community' literally means 'to give among each other.' Anthropologists have discovered evidence of gift-giving within communities dating back 40,000 years ago. The discovery of 40,000 year-old ostrich shell beads in a rock shelter in Kenya is even more remarkable because in the same community today, the San hunter-gatherers still maintain the same network of exchanging these beads for local goods and services. However, the communities in South Africa and other countries are not using their most valuable resources - each other. Each citizen within a community has a skill or service to offer that would benefit the community as a whole. Yet they sit idle because they lack the necessary element required to charge and pay for these services, which is money. By definition, money is simply an agreement to use something as a medium of exchange. It seems absurd that communities must endure extreme poverty simply because they lack this 'agreement to use something as a medium of exchange.' This can be solved by incorporating a complementary currency to be used within the community thus creating a cooperative local economy.

Definition of Complementary Currencies

A complementary currency is simply an agreement within a community to use and accept a non-national currency as means of payment. These currencies are not intended to replace national currencies, but are meant to perform functions that current national currencies neglect. Complementary currencies can be implemented as either a fiat currency or a mutual credit. A fiat currency is currency that is created and distributed by a designated authority; the same process is used with national currencies. A mutual credit system is created by the participants in a transaction as a simultaneous debit and credit. One of the most prominent operating complementary currencies and a perfect example of a mutual credit system is the Local Exchange Trading System (LETS). LETS was created by Michael Linton in 1983 in Vancouver, Canada as a non-profit corporation that operates a computer-based mutual credit system. The system works on a membership basis, where members list their goods and services to be offered in LETS currency or, in some cases, a combination of LETS currency and the national currency. Everyone begins with a zero balance and incurs a debt when the member buys a service with LETS currency and receives a credit when selling the good or service. One important aspect of LETS is that all members' outstanding debit or credit balance is public information, becoming a self-policing process against abuse of the system by individuals. Complementary currencies can come in paper form distributed as a fiat currency, can be simply a mutual credit system kept on file, or subtle variations of each. For example, a demurrage can be incorporated in the form of a 'stamp scrip,' where there is a small tax applied to the money at determined time intervals, to promote circulation and prevent hoarding. However, one important similarity among all complementary currencies is that none bear interest. The interest bearing national currencies have created competition among citizens, and the exclusion of interest is done to generate cooperation instead of competition.

The Goals of Complementary Currency

However, with every form of complementary currency, the goals remain the same. They are intended to provide a means for job creation and local sustainability within communities. At their core and most importantly, they ensure that wealth stays within a community. This is a key benefit as the majority of South Africans living in the poor communities both makes and spends their money outside of their communities. The continual flow of money out of the poor communities will continue to make it more difficult for the communities to work their way out of poverty. The strength of complementary currencies is that they are only accepted within the communities, allowing the communities to build a local economy and in the process improve the quality of life for all individuals. Complementary currencies also help to restore and preserve the local culture. Some products are both inevitable and beneficial to be a part of the global competitive markets, such as automobiles. However, particular regional crafts or produce should be preserved despite them not being the absolute cheapest. Complementary currencies allow these cultural elements to be preserved while also providing jobs and domestic economic growth as well. Beyond economic and cultural benefits, complementary currencies also have great environmental and social benefits. The environmental benefits are typically first visible with the emergence of local gardens where community members see an opportunity to both use and now sell produce within the community. Another environmental benefit often overlooked is the reduction in transportation and pollution due to a new local source of income and goods. The social benefits are not as tangible but are just as important. The social benefits begin with an overall increase in affection through participation and lead to an increased creativity among community members in creating new ways to participate in the local economy. Complementary currencies will help to uplift the economic state and restore the culture and the true sense of community. Historically, ancient communities based on gift-giving have unraveled as soon as a national currency replaces the gifts. Within the American Indian tribes during the 1830s, the tribes that first replaced their gift exchanges with the national currency were the first to fall apart and dissolve - within less than a generation. Complementary currencies will restore the notion of a community while providing jobs for the once employed as well as the individuals that currently lack the skills required to work in the money-based mainstream economy. The benefits of complementary currencies are clear and have been present for centuries. The benefits have recently been acknowledged by the government in New Zealand, which stated that they are now funding complementary currency initiatives, because they help people build and maintain skills, they motivate people to search for mainstream jobs, and they are quite often a springboard to self-employment.

The Early Complementary Currency Movement

The notion of complementary currencies is not just a theory, but is rooted in centuries of proven implementations. It is important to analyze the early and recent successful implementations to have a complete understanding of complementary currencies and their current uses. The earliest forms of complementary currencies can be traced to the ancient gift-giving notion observed throughout history. However, in the modern era, complementary currencies were quite prevalent worldwide at the beginning of the 20th century. One successful complementary currency of this era was the 'Wara' system implemented in a small town in Germany in the early 1920's. At the time, Germany was experiencing a complete collapse of their national currency with the value plummeting to near worthlessness. During this time, Dr. Hebecker, an owner of a coal mine in the town of Schwanenkirchen, convinced his workers to accept 90% of their wages in a complementary currency called 'Wara,' or he would be forced to close the mine. He agreed initially to provide food that they could purchase with their 'Wara,' which means 'commodity money' in German. He also stated that the money was backed by the coal inventory. The Wara itself was paper money that also incorporated the small monthly stamp fee to prevent hoarding and encourage circulation. The Wara was immediately successful in saving the coal mine and in saving the entire town of Schwanenkirchen. Over the next several years, the circulation of the Wara spread dramatically throughout Germany and over 2000 corporations began using the new complementary currency. However, the central bank considered the Wara to be too successful and even thought it was an inflationary threat although its value was tied to the value of coal. In October 1931, the Minister of Finance declared that the Wara was illegal thus ending the success.

Another well-documented application of complementary currencies during this era occurred in the small town of Worgl, Austria. The new mayor of the town inherited a population of 4500, with 500 jobless and 1000 close to jobless. Additionally, the mayor, Michael Unterguggenberger, had a list of projects that he wanted to complete in the town with people willing and able to work, yet with only 40,000 Austrian schillings in the bank. He decided to put the money up as a guarantee for issuing 40,000 of Worgl's own schillings to use for the community projects. Within no time, they re-paved streets and built new houses and even a bridge. The schillings also included a stamp scrip that encouraged circulation and were the source of funding for many of the future projects. Soon 6 nearby villages had mimicked the Worgl complementary currency system to similar success, and by 1933 some 200 Austrian townships were looking to copy the system as well. However, it was at that point that once again the central authority intervened and made it a criminal offence to issue what they labeled 'emergency currency.' The panicked reaction by the central bank resulted in the town of Worgl retreating back to 30 percent unemployment by 1934.

The nation with the most comprehensive history of complementary currencies during the era was the United States. In fact, the U.S. came quite close to declaring complementary currencies a part of the nation's official public policy. Complementary currencies emerged in the U.S. during most periods of distress, from the Panic of 1837 through the Depression crisis. There is considerable documentation of thousands of examples of local complementary currencies from every state in the Union. At the onset of the Depression, after intense experimentation, research, and public support, the well-respected Professor Irving Fisher met with the Undersecretary of the Treasury. Fisher presented correctly designed and successful complementary currencies proven in American communities and also stated that, "The correct application of stamp scrip would solve the Depression crisis in the U.S. in three weeks." The Undersecretary commissioned his own research and eventually also agreed that a correct complementary currency would bring the U.S. out of the Depression. However, due to fears of decentralization, President Roosevelt denounced the complementary currencies soon afterwards, and they were prohibited. This was the common trend among the complementary currencies of the early 20th century. Although, the successes of the complementary currencies were apparent, government authorities ended them all. The authorities acted hastily on biased fears and mainly due to the fact that the new currencies were simply too successful without the need for central banks.

The Recent Surge in Complementary Currencies

However, there has been a dramatic surge in the implementation of complementary currencies over recent years that deserves a more complete analysis. The recent surge in complementary currencies involves all parts of the world with dramatic increases each year. The recent successes in complementary currencies have occurred in all types of environments, from shantytowns to the largest metro-areas. Aside from the continual successes of complementary currencies, the most encouraging aspect of the recent surge is the presence of government acceptance in many countries. An analysis of several different variations of the complementary currencies during this recent surge will yield a more complete understanding of the implementation process, leading to potential remedies for future communities and specifically those in South Africa.

 One of today's more successful complementary currencies in the United States is based on the notion of Time Dollars, a concept developed by Professor Edgar Cahn in 1986. At its simplest definition, the use of Time Dollars is an agreement within community to use hours of service as a means of payment. For example, if Jason doesn't have a car and needs a ride to town, Judy can offer him a ride to town and she will now have a credit in the community and Jason will have a debit. Jason can offset his debit by doing garden work for another community member, and Judy can spend her credit on food from the community baker for example. Therefore, there does not need to a matching needs and resources to complete a Time Dollar transaction; the credit and debits can be settled with anyone in the community. The cost of incorporating this system in a community is quite small, as the only requirement is a method to track the members' credits or debits. This can be done with paperwork or computer programs, such as the free 'Timekeeper' software. The Time Dollar system was first proven successful in retirement home communities in Florida and has since spread to several hundred communities throughout the U.S and overseas with several working systems in the U.K. The benefits observed within the communities include closeness among community members, the forming of a communal garden, and even occasional informal community dinners. People feel valued as they relate to each other more and research proved an overall increase in health. This even led to a health insurance company in New York deciding to accept 25% of payments in Time Dollars, because they found that the participants were healthier and had lower health care costs. The most important recent advance with the spread of Time Dollars was the ruling of the Internal Revenue Service that Time Dollar transactions are tax-free. The low costs and ease of use of the Time Dollar system make this a unique and successful complementary currency system.

One of the more successful paper currency systems today is the Ithaca HOURS system in the low-income community of 27,000 in Ithaca, New York. The important distinction with this complementary currency is that the town is a poor town where even most of the employed remain eligible for food stamps, providing a more similar comparison to South Africa than many of the Time Dollar communities. Additionally, the system was invented due to the community's close proximity to New York City, where much of the town's income was being spent, similar to the proximity of the townships in South Africa to the large cities where their income is spent as well. In 1991, a local community activist, Paul Glover, launched a complementary currency system based on the currency of Ithaca HOURS. The main element of the system is a bimonthly newspaper that advertises products and services from both people and businesses the accept Ithaca HOURS. Products or services can be payable in a combination of the complementary and national currency. The system is now being used by thousands of participants in over 40 communities successfully. The startup costs seem small, but the fact that the currency is a fiat currency requires a central authority to issue the currency. However, one benefit utilized through this is the donation of 9.5% of all currency issued to local non-profit organizations. The implementation of this aspect can extend the direct benefits of complementary currencies dramatically.

An example of a Third World city utilizing complementary currencies to uplift the community from poverty is the city of Curitiba in Brazil. The population of the city had increased from one million in 1971, when Jaime Lerner became mayor, to 2.3 million by 1997. The majority of the residents lived in favelas, which were shantytowns made of cardboard and metal, similar to the conditions of many South African townships. The mayor's largest problem that he wanted to remedy was excessive garbage piling up around the streets and breeding disease. Due to a lack of money, the mayor invented a new system where he would give one bus token in return for each bag of presorted garbage. This extended to giving students notebooks in exchange for the garbage. Soon the streets were clean and new projects were completed with similar exchanges. Curitiba was soon completing public projects without enduring the typical process of obtaining financing, and the quality of life was drastically improved. The interesting aspect of the Curitiba example is that it was never intended to be a complementary currency, but one was created in the process of solving the city's problems, and the citizens embraced it nonetheless.

Another important implementation of complementary currencies involves the use of the Bia in Thailand. The use of a new complementary currency, called Bia, began on March 29, 2000 in the Kud Chum district in Yasothon, Thailand. The main economic activity of the area occurs in small rural markets with produce, household goods, and local crafts. However, the key difference with the markets is that the price of the goods is always stated in a combination of bia and the national currency, the baht. Additionally, the bia currency is available only to community members of the local bank who are allowed to borrow up to 500 bia interest-free, which they must pay back. Each account is registered as a Unit, and can be comprised of an entire family. The bia itself is a paper currency with the addition of cultural spirit poems and local pictures on them. The small markets where the bia is used often have visitors from the surrounding areas that also pay partially in bia as well. The bia is intended to be used for the local purchases resulting in an increase in local production of cultural goods and substitutions for previously imported goods. For example, where the community used to buy mass-produced snack foods, they now buy and sell locally produced and healthier snack foods. However, the community members are still able to receive the national currency in return for the main portion of the agriculture, which they produce for income. The unique aspects of the bia combine to form a highly successful complementary currency based around small local markets.

The Tlaloc currency is another complementary currency with a unique and successful characteristic. The location of the Tlaloc currency is the neighborhood of Colonia Tlaxpana in Mexico, where the currency was implemented in 1987. The interesting aspect of the Tlaloc is that it is both a mutual credit system and a paper currency. The currency is issued in the form of paper cheques from a group of trusted members with chequebooks. The cheques have endorsement spaces on the back where the users are required to endorse the back. Therefore, this enables the cheques to circulate as currency, and they can be brought in at anytime to record the debit of the first user and a credit to the last user. The system requires only one computer or central record to periodically record debits and credits making the Tlaloc an easy model to emulate. In fact, the Tlaloc currency model has already been successfully emulated the neighborhood of Toctiuco in Quito, Ecuador, with the circulation of compromisos cheques.

Another success outside of the U.S. and U.K. is the spread of complementary currency systems throughout Argentina. The first systems were set up by sustainable development activists in 1995 as simple barter clubs that met occasionally to exchange goods among the community. Soon the barter clubs began printing their own currency, called creditos, and now these complementary currency systems number 500 and are active in 20 of the 24 provinces. The creditos have bar codes on them to guard against counterfeiting. Any member of the community can join provided that they attend two meetings to learn about the system and the trading rules. The new members are given 50 creditos to begin trading at the local and regional markets. The practice of giving everyone credits at the beginning rather than starting at zero or in debt gives the new members a greater feeling of empowerment, and they are more likely to begin participating. The complementary currency systems have provided a livelihood for thousands of Argentineans. The markets themselves contain the usual foods and consumables, but also include lawyers, dentists and hairdressers, many of whom have no other source of work. With the recent collapse of Argentina's interest-bearing national currency, the reliance on these complementary currencies has strengthened tremendously. The economic conditions in Argentina are quite similar to South Africa with a struggling, national currency and many citizens leaving the country to work abroad. Empowered by complementary currencies, several thousand Argentineans now cling to a reasonable livelihood through participation in their respective local economies. An estimated 500,000 Argentineans now participate regularly, with up to one million participating occasionally. Even the government of Argentina stated that these networks help keep many citizens above the starvation level and provide a stepping stone back into the mainstream economy.

The recent surge in complementary currencies has extended to various nations within Africa, as a recent successful application is operating in various communities within the nation of Senegal. The implementation began in March 1998 in the Grand-Yoff district of Senegal's capital of Dakar. After several workshops promoting the new currency, the project began similar to a LETS-based system where services and products were offered among the community. The launch coincided with one of the markets, which was attended by 52 participants. The next market session brought over 150 participants and has seen a continual and steady growth. The currency notes, called "bons de travail," are denominated in hours and were printed with funding from a local non-profit organization.

Local leaders are also in the process of forming a school where students will pay for education with the bons currency. The bons received will be used to pay salaries of the school employees and will be used to fund additional community projects. The system has already spread to the neighboring country of Mauritania, and soon all 30 districts within Senegal will have a similar complementary currency system uplifting the local economies and communities.

These are a handful of the thousands of successful complementary currencies operating throughout the world. The variations among fiat currencies and the LETS-based, mutual credit systems have produced numerous different successful systems, each that are adapted to work in their respective environment. A unique recent adaptation is a system where currency is obtained through doing community service and can be redeemed at local businesses. The system, named Community Service Dollars (C$D), is being implemented in Minneapolis, Minnesota and is receiving tremendous support from the non-profit organizations, local businesses and the community as a whole. The common tie among the recent complementary currency applications is steady acceptance by local and national authorities. In fact, the New Zealand government is actually funding several complementary currency initiatives. Additionally, UK's Prime Minister Tony Blair formally endorsed LETS as "showing the way towards rebuilding human capital and making the links between rebuilding communities and rebuilding economic opportunity." The recent surge of successful complementary currencies also shows that they can be successful in the poorest countries through the most developed. The many successful variations of complementary currencies give countries in need of local economic stimulus a multitude of options. A direct replication of a successful complementary currency system is typically not recommended; countries such as South Africa should instead be inspired by them and should take aspects from several and adapt them to the local socioeconomic conditions.

Characteristics Applicable to South Africa

Current conditions in South Africa provide a fertile ground for implementing a successful complementary currency that can uplift the poor and previously neglected communities and produce successful contributors to the national economy. South Africa's poor communities are densely populated, where communities of up to 20,000 live in 25-50 square meter shacks, constructed side-by-side forming a sea of shacks filling a defined plot of land. The close proximity of the residents and the few community buildings within the community actually serve as an advantage in forming a cooperative local economy fueled by complementary currencies. Hosting meetings, and eventually the marketplaces, within close proximity to the residents should yield higher attendance versus a typical neighborhood. In fact, a complementary currency is currently being implemented in one of the highest population densities in the world, with the 'Amstelnet Unit' initiative in The Netherlands. One important element in the potential success of a complementary currency that bodes well for South Africa is good timing, with respect to current national economic conditions. The unfortunate conditions of high unemployment and a weak national currency actually bode well for the launch process of a complementary currency. The current conditions in South Africa include a nation with half its citizens enduring unemployment and its national currency in recent turmoil. It was the high unemployment rate in France during the 1990's that enabled the LETS-based systems there to grow exponentially and rebuild the communities as the nation recovered. Similarly, the recent shocks in national currencies have allowed the benefits of complementary currency systems to expand tremendously in Argentina and Mexico.

Other less obvious characteristics of South Africa and its poor communities also enable complementary currencies the ideal grounds to flourish. The prevalence of active women in the communities has proven beneficial for complementary currencies throughout the modern era of their implementation. In South Africa's poor communities, it is typically the women who attend the community meetings and who take the initiative with the new projects. A Ph.D. thesis that analyzed New Zealand's complementary currency systems found that women have the highest participation rates. The presence of an active and motivated female population within South Africa's communities is a tremendous advantage in launching a complementary currency that should not be overlooked. Additionally, the availability of new information technologies and software allow safer experimentation and monitoring of complementary currencies than ever before. While South Africa's poor communities remain out of the technology loop, the nation of South Africa as a whole has quite sufficient resources to implement any necessary software or technology, as opposed to less developed countries. As a whole, South Africa is prime and ready for the implementation of a complementary currency that will spur local economies and lift the nation from poverty.

Implementation Process for South Africa

The first step in establishing complementary currencies in South African communities is determining which type of currency to implement. Many nations beginning a complementary currency initiative in recent years have opted to choose more than one type of currency to experiment with simultaneously in different communities. For example, the European Commission is currently financing a complementary currency initiative called the Barataria projects. The Barataria projects are composed of four complementary currency prototypes, each purposely chosen to be different from each other. One is a paper currency, while three are purely electronic, and each has different alterations while being implemented in different environments. Therefore, a similar approach would prove beneficial for a complementary currency project in South Africa. To reduce the logistics and costs of the implementation and to bring the benefits to public attention quicker, a project involving two different complementary currency structures in two South African townships would be efficient and effective.

In choosing a currency, the primary decision is determining whether the system should be a fiat currency or a mutual credit. Mutual credits are typically preferred, as fiat currencies require a regulatory board to issue new currency and monitor the circulation. Additionally, central banks have historically and mistakenly viewed fiat currencies as inflationary, where mutual currencies are more likely to receive government approval. Therefore, both complementary currencies to be implemented in South Africa should be based on mutual credit for ease of implementation and potential government acceptance. The notion introduced by the Tlaloc currency of a mutual credit system combined with paper currency is another characteristic that should be mimicked in the South Africa context. The paper currency will give a feeling of familiarity with the new means of exchange while also incorporating the benefits of mutual credit. In addition, a demurrage in the form of a stamp scrip should be applied to the currency as well to encourage circulation and prevent hoarding. The design of the currency should also incorporate cultural elements similar to the design thoughts of the Bia currency in Thailand. The value of the currency can either be pegged to the national currency or the notion of time as observed with Time Dollars and Ithaca HOURS. For the initial launch of complementary currencies in South Africa, it makes sense to peg the value to the national currency, the Rand, for ease of understanding and setting prices in the communities. For the other complementary currency for South Africa, a computerized LETS-based system would be an ideal alternative system to be implemented alongside the Tlaloc-based system. The most prevalent and successful systems implemented today are LETS-based systems and South Africa would be perfectly suitable for such a system with a proper design and sufficient administrative support. Although the use of a computer would add to the training time, the benefits of proving the efficiency of a computer-based LETS system are tremendous. Computerized systems are more efficient and allow for additions that paper-based currencies do not allow. For example, one flaw with the addition of the demurrage is that on the day before a fee is required for holding the currency, many participants unload a large majority on stores to avoid the fee. With the use of computers, a continuous time-related charge can be applied and will eliminate this flaw. The direction of the management and launch of currencies is moving towards monitoring by some type of new technology, and proving one project using computers will yield confidence in establishing new complementary currencies. The LETS system itself will work like a basic system of participants offering products and services to the community in return for credit. The credits and debits of all members will be logged on a central computer and will be displayed in a central area in the community. As typical of a LETS mutual credit system, no tangible forms of money will exchange hands as the currency exists as records in an accounting system.

The main obstacle associated with implementing a new project, more specifically a complementary currency, revolves around the notion of trust and confidence. The most difficult part is not designing the proper currency, but it is having the complementary currency accepted and used in the community. The element that will allow for trust and confidence comes from establishing local leadership around the project. The appropriate town leaders need to be identified and involved in the process from concept to circulation. The local leaders must have vision, entrepreneurial capability, as well as a sense of charisma to spread trust and confidence in the benefits within the community. The training within the communities will be led by the local leaders and will instruct participants equally on the rules of the new currencies and the benefits that the community will soon see from its reinvigorated local economy. Training is typically accomplished through periodic workshops leading up to the launch of the currency.

Additionally, the incorporation of some form of publicity has proven effective in building trust in the new currency. The complementary currency systems successfully introduced in France in the 1990's were often featured on TV shows, newspapers, and other media outlets leading to the point now where one of every four citizens exchange without using Francs, the national currency. The New Zealand approach included a national informational tour covered by the media in conjunction with local workshops to disseminate the ideas. Local media coverage in South Africa will spread confidence and even bring a feeling of pride among the participants of the project. The national publicity must coincide with appropriate publicity within the communities themselves. The local advertising should be cultural accurate and respectful. The figure below is an example of a culturally appropriate advertisement used within the communities of Dakar, Senegal to publicize their complementary currency system.

Local leaders must be consulted to discuss the design and uses of local advertisement to ensure maximum publicity and future participation in the complementary currency system. The combination of these elements with a sound complementary currency design will lead South Africa on the road to local sustainability and an overall improvement in the national economy and well being.

Concluding Thoughts

South Africa and other nations in our global economy stand today with dire poverty and a struggling national economy and feel confronted by seemingly insurmountable problems. However, with the understanding of complementary currencies, they actually should see that they now stand confronted by opportunities instead of problems. It has been demonstrated that issues of unemployment, local economic revitalization and other social problems have been improved dramatically with the incorporation of complementary currencies. These improvements can be achieved at the most grass-roots level and without the typical bureaucracies associated with economic change. South Africa must look around at its most valuable resources, each other, and empower the local economies by introducing complementary currencies and bringing the nation out of dire poverty hand-in-hand.


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