Zimbabwe’s cash-strapped utility Zesa Holdings Ltd. is allowing people to pay their bills in foreign currency as it struggles to fund the nation’s power imports.
Zesa said in an emailed statement on Sunday that the decision would bring consumers more “convenience.” Previously, only miners and exporters were allowed to pay for power supplies in U.S. dollars and other foreign currencies.
The southern African country generates less than half of its own electricity and relies on imports from South Africa and Mozambique for the rest. Local production has been hit by a drought that shuttered the nation’s main hydropower plant and by frequent breakdowns at its coal-fired Hwange facility.
The government has gradually opened more of the struggling economy to foreign transactions since the start of a virus lockdown in March, backtracking on an earlier decision to make the Zimbabwe dollar the sole legal tender. Citizens can now use U.S. dollars for food shopping, fuel, toll fees and passports.
The move has undermined demand for the Zimbabwe dollar, sending its value slumping and it now trades at 81.73 to the U.S. dollar.
The utility said the exchange rate from a weekly foreign auction system would be used to settle consumers’ electricity bills.