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Cash

| June 10, 2008

Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation continues to fascinate me.

I’ve seen photos of people getting trays full of change after paying for a beer in a bar. The money depreciates so quickly that Zimbabweans must spend their earnings instantly on items that hold their value better than the does beleaguered currency—which is pretty much anything these days.

Apparently, Zimbabwean prostitutes have even been demanding payment in diesel.

I try to picture people paying for big-ticket items such as cars in these circumstances. Would there be enough space in the showroom to hold the cash?

It’s not an entirely unrealistic vision, because many African economies are cash-only. In Malawi, for example, few people have access to credit because there is no national identification system. Without birth certificates, it is almost impossible for people to prove they are who they say they are.

When Transcom’s Guy Fawcett purchased a pickup truck recently, he had to bring US$30,000 in cash to the dealership—and then the saleswoman tried to trick him by folding one stack of notes in a way that made it seem as if there wasn’t enough money.

So, while many things are done differently in Africa, the ethics of salespeople appear to be consistent with those of their counterparts in the West.

Category: Blogs, Out of Africa

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