Zimbabwe leaps into the cashless future
While most countries have adopted e-wallets and mobile banking as a result of technological innovation and evolution, Zimbabwe was forced into it because of a financial crisis.
In Harare’s central business district, hundreds of Zimbabweans queue and mill around outside the banks in what has become a grim daily ritual in this broken country.
Corralled by police and bank security, these customers wait patiently in the hope that this will be the day they can withdraw cash from their accounts. But in the main, it’s a fool’s errand, one repeated day after day.
These are not the signs of crippling bank runs, but something beyond that. Harare used to be one of Africa’s busiest financial centres before years of corruption and economic incompetence by the regime led by Robert Mugabe ruined that industry. In 2009, Zimbabwe abandoned its hyperinflationary currency and adopted the US dollar, along with eight other international currencies deemed legal tender by the central bank; since then, it has endured an acute liquidity shortage, unable to print any money.
Every week, Zimbabwe’s central bank and commercial banks fly millions of US dollars in cash into the country, but because it is absorbed by traders, very little of it ends up at the high-street banks.