In a tiny village in Western Jamaica, the African ‘maroon’ community is taking on a mammoth task and adopting an entirely new monetary system.
While the village is relatively unknown, Accompong is semi-independent and has been described as “a nation within a nation”. And while the rest of Jamaica falls under North America, Accompong is a little piece of Africa with a profoundly deep history of defying the norms. Founded in 1739 after rebel slaves and their descendants fought a protracted war with the British, the runaway Maroon slaves signed a peace treaty with the British to gain semi-sovereignty over the area.
With no taxes, no police or crime and a miniscule population of just 1000, creating an entirely new monetary system seems daunting. But with Accompong Finance Minister Timothy McPherson at the helm, the village is breaking barriers and may just lead the way for the African Union (AU) to challenge commonplace notions of currency.
“On the one hand, there is a massive need for energy and on the other hand, conventional financial instruments cannot facilitate those needs so there needs to be a change,” he says.
McPherson has his eyes set on creating “a dynamic, sound and comprehensive new monetary system”. The idea is to tap into Africa’s biggest resource – renewable energy.
Prompt and forthright, McPherson is a powerful force in the global fast-paced world of finance. He is ensuring that his impressive record of 15 years of global experience as a leading financial engineer, investment banking change management advisor, and financial communications expert puts Accompong on the map.
Embarking on creating a new currency based on solar energy is Accompong’s next great battle.
Finance Ministers are generally renowned for grandiose statements about boosting economic growth and the alignment of robust economies with the wellbeing of a country. In the case of McPherson, his impressive CV matches his bold plans for Accompong which has at the center a bid to solve the twin challenges of Africa’s abundant (and untapped) resources and climate change.
“I have a fairly predictable if not conventional background when it comes to finance,” says McPherson quite coolly.
Despite that statement, his approach to bolstering Accompong’s economy is anything but conventional.
“We recognized that given the reality for climate change, the opportunity for Africa and its future economic development as well as the Caribbean and Latin America resides within embracing the reality for climate change and taking a leadership role and that should be based on renewable energy,” he says.
For the Finance Minister in trying to make a name for his village, it comes to the ultimate question, how do you finance that?
“A dear friend of mine Cardinal Peter Turkson from the Vatican said one of the focal points should be a climate change imitative,” he begins.
It sounds like a Dan Brown novel with a postcolonial twist as he explains the seemingly fantastical reasons for creating a new currency.
“Africa has a dearth of energy,” he explains. “If we’re going to have a 21st century Pan-Africanism and we accept that the economy is the sphere for engagement for that Pan-Africanism, what is our commonality? And our greatest commonality is of course the sun that shines 365 days a year.”
McPherson barely contains his excitement as he explains the emergence of the ‘Lumi’, a new currency based on solar energy. The goal is to create a Pan-African currency and find solutions that work for Africa.
The concept is to have a currency that is universally understood, that will not change significantly over time, and whose liquidity will always meet market expectations. It’s not a completely novel idea and has already been achieved with the gold standard. What is novel, is the focus on solar energy rather than traditional understandings of commodities. Utilising energy, which is understood by all, the Lumi will have parity with kilowatt hours. Given our future demands for energy, the value could be higher than our traditional commodities like gold and silver.
“The financial engineering behind the Lumi recognizes the way in which our ancestors, in colonial times and pre-colonial times, always took a leadership role in creating their own mechanisms for monetary exchange whether bartering, cowrie shells, copper plates or gold.”
Unlike other currencies like the dollar or the euro, the Lumi is not a Fiat currency with a value backed by the government that issued it. Instead, the value of the Lumi is underpinned by energy making it commodity money. The rising importance of sustainable development goals like ensuring affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all creates the perfect environment for a currency pegged against solar energy.
“And in the 21st century, where renewable energy literally lets us harvest the energy in the sun, we recognize that gold isn’t our greatest commodity, diamonds aren’t our greatest commodity. Rather the sun is our greatest commodity,” he explains excitedly. “How do you take the sun and convert it into our greatest asset? The lumi is a manifestation of that,” says McPherson.
His initiative is ready to take wings. McPherson launched the Lumi at the start of October and in November, representatives from the African Union will visit Accompong to see if the Lumi could work in the rest of Africa.
“We’re the oldest African peoples in the area and we want to engage the continent wholeheartedly on an economic, and sociological point of view,” he says.
“Until Western powers sign off on structures, African leaders are reluctant to get on board because it hasn’t run in a Western economy. I want to challenge that.”
As the Lumi enters the currency circles, the power that could be elicited for Africa is immense. It changes the discourse of currency and could see Africa on the front foot as it leads and creates new frontiers.
As Ashish Thakkar will say which will be paraphrased ” Africa is not left behind but lead the way” and this is a true evidence that supports this saying. We are proud to be associated to this and we wish him all the best.
We are in search of trailblazers and pacesetters just like this.Do you have anyone in mind? If you do, then nominate now .
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