Zimbabwe adopts Chinese yuan as legal tender while African currencies struggle

File photo of a yuan banknote displayed next to a U.S. dollar banknote for the photographer at a money changer in Taiwan

Zimbabweans may soon be able to shop in yuan, after their government announced that the Chinese currency will become legal tender.

Since 2009, Zimbabwe has used the dollar and the rand in lieu of its own currency, which it abandoned after hyperinflation of more than 5,000 percent made it essentially worthless.

This year, several key African currencies have taken a significant hit, as economic growth slows, and falling prices for major export commodities reduce the flow of dollars into the continent.

In Nigeria, the continent’s largest economy, the Central Bank has restricted access to dollars, in an attempt to slow the flight of hard currency out of the country, and to prop up the local currency, the naira.

Importing challenges

For countries like Nigeria, which import a lot of their food and refined fuel, this has created serious challenges, as importers buy in dollars and sell in naira, meaning they get less for their money — or they have to charge consumers more. The restrictions on dollars placed on banks and traders mean that some have been unable to pay their suppliers, leading to shipments being held up or diverted.

“I think if you ask people in trading cities like Lagos or Kano right now, they’re not happy. It’s going to be a tough Christmas,” Amy Jadesimi, managing director of the LADOL industrial park in Lagos, says.

The central bank is only “staving off devaluation” of the naira, Jadesimi says, echoing the views of analysts and bankers. “Everybody can see, it’s standing on the edge of a cliff, we can see it’s going to fall.”

Other oil exporters are struggling as well. In Angola, where oil makes up more than 95 percent of foreign currency earnings, a shortage of dollars has seriously limited the ability of traders to bring in food, manufactured goods and construction materials.

“The market is depressed,” one international trader, based in Luanda says. “It’s a bad time because we don’t have access to the currencies.” — (CNN)

Plunging kwacha

The worst performing currency of the year worldwide, according to Bloomberg data, has been the Zambian kwacha, which lost around 40 percent of its value against the dollar as the country’s exports plunged. Zambia is heavily dependent on sales of copper, the price of which has slumped by a quarter over the past 12 months.

The Zambian Kwacha was the single worst performance currency in Africa this year
The Zambian Kwacha was the single worst performance currency in Africa this year

Ghana’s cedi lost nearly 20 percent over the year, while in Mozambique, the metical has lost 36 percent. In the former, a combination of factors, including falling prices for gold and oil, as well as what many see as poor economic management, has led investors to pull out. In the latter, the commodity rout has undermined takings from coal and iron.

Mozambique, like Nigeria, has imposed foreign exchange controls, having already spent around $1 billion to defend the currency, according to some analyst estimates. — (CNN)

Source: Peter Guest for The Philadelphia Tribune