Harare: Severe shortages of US dollars that are used as local currency in Zimbabwe have forced many residents to become cash hunter-gatherers.
This week, Zimbabwe's central bank imposed measures in an attempt to ease the cash crunch, which reflects the country's dire economic situation. The measures include reducing the amount of money that travelers can take outside the country and limiting daily cash withdrawals.
Long lines are frequent outside banks, where tellers limit daily withdrawals to USD 200, forcing people who need larger amounts to make repeat visits.
Concillia Dube, a 72-year-old pensioner, said she left home at dawn in recent days to wait for hours in a bank line. Another Zimbabwean, Mcdonald Maradzika, said he checks every morning
for a bank branch dispensing cash and stores the money he withdraws at home.
"We have become hunter-gatherers," he said. Another measure to ease the cash crunch is the introduction of dollar-backed "bond notes" to be issued by the government's central bank, similar to
bond coins introduced to ease the problem of small change in 2014.
Economist John Robertson described the measures as a kind of "firefighting" that don't address productivity.
"Zimbabwe is importing more than it is exporting, so the problems will continue until we drastically increase our exports that can earn us more money," he said.
Since Zimbabwe's currency collapsed in 2009, the country officially uses nine currencies, including the US dollar, the euro, the South African rand, the Indian rupee, the British pound and the
Chinese yuan. In practice, the US dollar is the de facto official currency.
John Mangudya, the governor of the central bank, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, has described Zimbabwe's multi-currency system as "dysfunctional."