Each and everyone of us is looking for a bargain. It doesn’t matter what we’re buying, we would pay nothing if that was possible. Unlucky for us, bargain hunting has never been more difficult in Zimbabwe where one has to contend with multiple currencies and ever changing exchange rates.
Businesses are trying to encourage us to pay using the USD and so offer small discounts to those paying in that currency. In many cases it indeed is cheaper to pay in USD but one has to do the quick maths before pulling the trigger on any purchase to make sure.
That brings us to the Econet data bundles. When Econet reintroduced USD bundles back in April, they made sure that if one could access USD, they would only pay using that currency instead of the ZW$. It was much cheaper to buy in USD.
3 in 1 wireless charger
Y 68 smartwatch
Lenovo IdeaPad 330
Buying 10GB cost US$10 but it was the equivalent of $17 if one paid using the ZW$. That was a crazy 41% premium if one paid using the undesirable ZW$.
That was then and this is now. The exchange rates have been a rollercoaster since then and we need to see what makes sense today.
Whatever may be the case today will only be for but a little while. It’s inconvenient but I believe we are going to have to do ‘quick maths’ everytime we have to buy the bundle to see what makes sense.
That shouldn’t be a challenge because we already do this for everything else.
USD vs ZW$ on Econet bundles
As always, we will consider the 10GB bundle.
If you have USD, you can get 10GB for $10. Simple enough however note that the 10GB is split thus: 8GB anytime and 2GB off-peak. The 2GB can only be used between 11pm and 4am. So, if you know you can barely make it past 9pm awake then you should consider this bundle an 8GB bundle.
As I write this in mid-June, inflation is out of hand and it feels like the exchange rates are being adjusted hourly.
You can buy the 10GB e-learning bundle for ZW$4920 today. The challenge is in translating that into USD to make the comparison with the USD bundle. Which rate do you use?
If you use the interbank rate (1:339) this bundle costs US$14.50. If you use the black market rate (1:610) it costs US$8. Very few of us can get USD at the interbank rate so we will work with the black market rate.
The problem with the black market rate is that there isn’t one single rate in the whole country. The rate in your neighbourhood is most likely different from the one in mine. So, when you do your quick maths use the actual rate applicable to you.
In this case, if the rate is 1:493 or above, it is cheaper to buy using ZW$. I imagine the rate is in the high 500s and low 600s in most places. That means the smart thing today is to use ZW$ to purchase your e-learning bundle.
Private wifi bundle
You can buy the 8GB private wifi bundle for ZW$5184 today. That equals US$8.50 using the black market rate.
In this case, if the rate is 1:519 or above then it will be cheaper to use the ZW$ to purchase your private wifi bundle.
However, this is for 8GB as opposed to the 10GB for the bundles above. Do remember though that for the USD bundle it’s as good as 8GB if you won’t be up between 11pm and 4am.
So, to simplify things let’s look at the price per GB for the three bundles.
USD bundle = $1
E-learning = $0.8
Private wifi = $1.06
What to do
If you can get the e-learning bundle, get that one. Today, it is the best value for money.
The private wifi bundle costs 6c more per GB than the USD bundle. That translates to close to 50c for the full 8GB.
If you can’t get the e-learning bundle, the USD bundle is the better option. But that’s only if you can utilise the off-peak 2GB. See, if you are not a night owl the USD bundle will cost you US$10 for only 8GB. That’s more than the US$8.50 for the private wifi bundle.
So e-learning bundle > USD bundle > private wifi bundle.
If you will be asleep between 11pm and 4am then it’s e-learning bundle > private wifi bundle > USD bundle.
That’s simple enough but remember you will have to do this quick maths whenever you have to purchase a bundle. In Zimbabwe prices and exchange rates are volatile. See how the USD bundle was the cheapest at launch but it’s more complicated today.
Even so, the USD bundle is still competitively priced in the region, Econet’s Smart USD bundles are cheaper than MTN’s in South Africa.