Zimbabwe begins issuing new notes to help ease cash crunch

With prices in Zimbabwe rising faster than at any point in a decade amid rapid devaluation of the local currency, cash is king. (AP)
Updated 12 November 2019

Zimbabwe begins issuing new notes to help ease cash crunch

  • New notes the latest currency reform in the troubled southern African country’s constantly changing monetary framework
  • Zimbabwe now has the world’s second highest inflation after Venezuela, according to IMF figures

HARARE, Zimbabwe: Zimbabwean banks on Tuesday began issuing new notes and coins aimed at easing severe cash shortages, but they are severely limiting the amounts that people can withdraw.
“What can I do with such a pittance?” asked Shorai Tomu after withdrawing the equivalent of about $5. “It can only buy five loaves of bread.”
The new notes are the latest currency reform in the troubled southern African country’s constantly changing, and at times confusing, monetary framework.
Zimbabwe now has the world’s second highest inflation after Venezuela, according to International Monetary Fund figures. With prices rising faster than at any point in a decade amid rapid devaluation of the local currency, cash is king.
In 2009, Zimbabwe’s government abandoned the local currency amid hyperinflation and adopted a multi-currency system dominated by the dollar. In June the government outlawed the use of foreign currencies, opting for a local currency mainly consisting of electronic and mobile money and a trickle of bank notes.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has struggled to fulfill promises to improve the economy two years after taking office following the resignation of the late Robert Mugabe.
Many retailers and service providers now demand payments in cash only. Others, including street vendors, charge a higher price for goods paid for using mobile money or bank cards.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe says it will “drip feed” ZW$1 billion in the new small notes and coins to manage the cash shortages. The highest denomination is ZW$5. The notes are strikingly similar in design to the old ones.
“It is just like the old money, and like the old money it can’t buy anything of value,” said 81-year-old Filbert Sibanda after withdrawing his monthly pension, enough to buy a kilogram of beef.
Other customers left disgruntled.
“This is not an improvement,” said Wicknell Magidha, waving a few new notes and a plastic bag filled with coins. “These coins are just too heavy.”
People trooped out of one bank carrying similar bags of coins, shaking their heads. Others in line laughed.
Magidha said the small bills and coins leave him with another headache, that of haggling with traders who usually reject them.
“The same item can have three different prices: one for cash, one for mobile money and another one for those paying using small coins,” Magidha said. “The government should just print higher denominations to match this inflation.”


STC postpones its acquisition of Vodafone Egypt for second time

Updated 6 min 46 sec ago

STC postpones its acquisition of Vodafone Egypt for second time

  • Kingdom’s largest telecom company says it will need an additional two months to complete the deal

CAIRO: The Saudi Telecom Company (STC), the Kingdom’s largest telecom company, said that it will need an additional two months to complete a deal to purchase a 55 percent stake in Vodafone Egypt.

In January, STC was in agreement to buy the stake for $2.4 billion. In April, it extended the process for 90 days due to logistical challenges stemming from the spread of COVD-19. The company said in a statement that it would extend the period again to September for the same reason.

The Public Investment Fund, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, owns a majority stake in STC. The ownership of Vodafone Egypt is divided between 55 percent for Vodafone International, which is the target percentage of the Saudi purchase offer, 44.8 percent for Telecom Egypt, and the remaining 0.2 percent for small shareholders.

Telecom Egypt is awaiting the results of Vodafone’s evaluation of the final share price to announce its position on the deal. A Telecom Egypt official stated that the company is still awaiting STC’s position regarding the purchase of the share. If the deal is not completed, it may be presented with its rights to acquire Vodafone’s share, which would allow it to take over 99.8 percent of the company’s shares, leaving 0.2 percent for small investors.

Ashraf El-Wardany, an Egyptian communications expert, pointed out the importance of waiting until the procedures between STC and the Vodafone Group are complete. The results will determine the next steps by Telecom Egypt.

El-Wardany said that the Saudi operator must, after completing the relevant studies, submit a final binding offer at the share price and any conditions for purchase. If approved by Vodafone, it must submit the offer with the same conditions and price to Telecom Egypt, provided that the latter responds within a maximum period of 45 days to determine its position regarding the use of the right of pre-emption and the purchase, or lack thereof, of Vodafone’s share.

According to El-Wardany, there are other possible scenarios. Vodafone International may not be convinced of the offer or the conditions presented by the Saudi side and the sale may be withdrawn, or the Vodafone group may be ready to sell and has prepared another buyer for its stake in Egypt in the event of rejecting the Saudi offer. It may also it back away from the deal and continue to operate in Egypt for a few more years.

El-Wardany said that if Telecom Egypt decides not to use the right of pre-emption to acquire the remaining Vodafone shares for any reason, it will continue with its 44.8 percent stake.
It may also resort to selling all of its shares or part of it to the Saudi side or to any company that wants to acquire its stake.

“This raises the question of whether STC can acquire all of Vodafone’s shares,” El-Wardany said, adding that the coming months “will make the answer clear.”