A few weeks ago we scoffed at the announcement by the Monetary Policy Committee which said that individuals would now soon be allowed to buy up to US$50 from Bureau de Changes at the official rate. That scepticism was based on history. We have heard such announcements before and nothing has come out of it. Except for this time around a little something has come from it.
Do you remember ContiCash the guys that allow you to pay for your DStv account at the official rate? They recently reached out to inform us that they are now offering the US$50 package which the RBZ promised in that announcement. This offer is open to the public all you need to do is register with ContiCash, apply through their WhatsApp platform, pay using RTGS and you can go and collect the cash at one of their branches.
How the process works
This is how the process works:
- Save the ContiCash WhatsApp chatbot number which is 0788788045 in your phone
- Send a WhatsApp message that says hi to the bot
- It will ask you to sign up if you hadn’t already done so
- Follow the prompts and you will eventually be asked to take a photo of your ID/Passport or licence
- Once you complete the sign up process it will be reviewed by ContiCash and if they are satisfied your ContiCash account will be approved and working
- You will receive a message welcoming you to ContiCash
- Once this happens you can send a message that says Hi again
- You will then be presented with several options one of which is the US$50 package
- Select this package
- Next, you will be asked to select your preferred ContiCash branch town/city
- You will then be shown the RTGS/ZWL amount you will need to pay. This will be at the official prevailing rate
- If you are satisfied you can then confirm
- You will then have to make the ZWL payment. This is handled by ContiPay, ContiCash’s platform that accepts ZIPIT and Ecocash
- Once you make payment you will receive the PIN and Code you will need to collect the moeny from any of ContiCash’s branches
N.B. The only other step left is you going to ContiCash to branches to collect your cash.
You can find their branches at the following locations:
- Current Harare branches:
- Chitungwiza Makoni
- Long Cheng
- B/ Court
- Current out of Hre branches
- Bulawayo has three branches
- Victoria Falls
Conticash’s service is already popular
The service is already popular and those who have known about it seem to have become regular users. I mean who doesn’t want USD, even $50 at basically half the black market rate? It might not seem like much but for most households, those are massive savings that can stretch the little ZWL they have. Seems word of this service has even reached “Gokwe” too. According to ContiCash, they have seen people from far and wide areas including Shurugwi, Maphisa and Chiweshe utilising the service.
Time for me to eat my hate?
Again I was not impressed by the initial announcement and this $50 is sort of a pleasant surprise. So is it time for me to eat my humble pie and admit I was wrong? No, never. Do not get me wrong, this is a delightful surprise. One of the reasons why the official market has failed to arrest the runaway black market rate is that it neglects the needs of the common man and focuses on businesses only.
This means that the rest of us peasants have no choice but to buy our foreign currency from the black market when the need arises. Imagine you need to pay for a medical procedure to save your or your loved one’s life. Would you let something as trivial as some statutory instrument stand in your way? You go to the black market to buy what you need with a clean conscience the government and the law be damned.
The supply issue
This facility might be able to plug a bit of that gap. Those with casual and small foreign currency needs could be catered for. This would in theory arrest the black market rate as some of the people’s foreign currency needs would now be catered for officially. However, that all depends on one important condition, supply. How much foreign currency will be allocated this way? Zimbabweans have a huge appetite for foreign currency for various reasons not least of which is inflation-busting.
Most people choose the USD as a way to protect their savings. No one in their right mind wants to keep ZWL notes under their pillow. National Mattress Banks all over this country are full of USD bills and to a lesser extent other foreign currency bills. A good portion of those US$50 will be put into those banks too and not go back into circulation.
To prove I am right, even ContiCash themselves admit that their RBZ allocations do run out quickly. They last for a few hours at least and I am betting it’s because that’s because it’s still not yet national news that ContiCash is doing this. After this article is published and news spreads far and wide I expect that allocation will last only for a few seconds.
I will eat my hat if the RBZ does manage to sustain this and caters to common people to the extent that we see a material dip in the black market rate. I must add my hat is small and edible so I will probably have no hard time eating it. The RBZ and ContiCash meanwhile have their task cut out for them. I wish them the best but the odds here are in my favour.