The resignation of President Robert Mugabe has ushered in limitless hope in Zimbabwe, especially among people like Makwindi, a 19-year-old divinity student at the University of Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe abandoned its own currency in 2009 amid hyperinflation that reached an annual rate of 231 million percent. Since then, the country has relied on foreign currency, in particular U.S. dollars and South African rand. But for more than a year, even that money has been scarce, making it hard for Zimbabweans to purchase the most basic necessities.
In his inaugural address, President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised that Zimbabweans would soon be able to access their earnings.
Professor Albert Makochekanwa is the chair of the economics department at the University of Zimbabwe. He says, he thinks Mnangagwa has taken positive steps to address the cash crisis, including announcing a three-month amnesty for top officials to return stolen government money, and working to make it easier to import goods.
But when will the crisis resolve? He wouldn’t hazard a firm guess.
Cash is available on the black market, at sky-high rates, and Zimbabweans complain their only legitimate money source is more expensive. Businesses often charge higher rates for customers paying with cards or with the popular “EcoCash” mobile money application.
“What fueled that is this issue whereby people have been keeping money in their homes because of their fear or limited confidence with the banking system,” he said. “So I’m sure if there’s improvement in terms of confidence in the banking system, and if also money starts coming in and we have this issue of a shortage of cash going away, I’m sure the prices and the money will converge to the same unit, whether it’s EcoCash, swipe or the actual currency.”
That day, Zimbabweans agree, can’t come soon enough.