Another peculiar phenomenon in Zimbabwe is that they are literally using US Dollars as their proper currency. In many foreign countries, people will accept US Dollars… because they know they can exchange them for their own currency easily. Similarly, in some foreign countries, their local currency may be pegged to the US Dollar – meaning, the value of their own currency is linked and comparable to the value of US Dollars. But Zimbabwe is actually USING the US Dollar as their own currency. As an American, it’s interesting and damn near hilarious that a place on another continent has just decided to use our dollars as their own currency and adopted them as their own legal tender.
I’m still struggling to understand exactly how and why the US Dollar came to be the national currency of Zimbabwe, but I believe it has a lot to do with their hyper-inflation crisis in 2008. At one point, Zimbabwe was notorious for having “100 Trillion Dollar bills” and other ridiculous banknotes in circulation… and even still, people had to carry BAGS of that cash to buy the most normal of things from the store. Their own currency became worth so little – essentially, flirting with being completely worthless – that something had to shake.
According to a friend I made during my week in Harare, their hyper-inflation situation back then escalating by the day. He laughed as he recounted to me, “I would be driving to work in the morning, back in 2008, and see gasoline cost a billion dollars. By the time I was heading home from work in the evening… gas would be $2 billion.” Apparently, it reached a point where businesses or suppliers outside the country wouldn’t accept payments in Zim currency because it was too unpredictable – so the country eventually scrapped those crazy banknotes and started using South African Rand and USD.
During my visit in early 2017, there were new “official” Zim bank notes that had recently gotten into circulation as well – but nobody wanted them. Sellers wanted payment with US dollars if possible, and if they tried to give change in Zim notes – customers would fuss and argue and try to get the dollars instead. Apparently, their new currency is 1-for-1 with the US dollar in terms of value within Zimbabwe, but in terms of acceptance outside of Zimbabwe – they’re essentially useless.
As an American rap song so eloquently put it, “IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS” – even in Zimbabwe!