Buying banknotes to survive Zimbabwe’s sky-high inflation

Noel Ngwenya, 44, from Chivi District of Masvingo Province spends his working days in downtown Bulawayo, the country’s second largest city, with a loudhailer advertising a unique service.

He collects torn or soiled foreign currency notes that have been rejected by supermarkets and other traders – mostly US dollars or South African rand, which are both legal tender in Zimbabwe.

Mr Ngwenya pays his clients 50% of the value of whichever note they bring – so they get $1 for a torn $2 note or 100 rand for a torn 200 rand note.

“Things are worse after Covid-19, it’s like everyone is now on the road selling something since there is almost no formal employment in the industries,” he says.

Zimbabwe’s rate of inflation has been falling since August 2022 when it hit a staggering 285%. However, in March this year it was still running at 87.6%, forcing Zimbabweans to find creative ways to survive.

A recent International Labour Organization Harare report says 76% of employment in Zimbabwe is now in the informal sector, in other words, selling goods or services without registering with the authorities.

The informal economy, massive bank charges and distrust of the banking sector mean Zimbabweans prefer to deal in cash or mobile money.



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