Zimbabwe begins issuing new notes to help ease cash crunch

With prices in Zimbabwe rising faster than at any point in a decade amid rapid devaluation of the local currency, cash is king. (AP)
Updated 12 November 2019

Zimbabwe begins issuing new notes to help ease cash crunch

  • New notes the latest currency reform in the troubled southern African country’s constantly changing monetary framework
  • Zimbabwe now has the world’s second highest inflation after Venezuela, according to IMF figures

HARARE, Zimbabwe: Zimbabwean banks on Tuesday began issuing new notes and coins aimed at easing severe cash shortages, but they are severely limiting the amounts that people can withdraw.
“What can I do with such a pittance?” asked Shorai Tomu after withdrawing the equivalent of about $5. “It can only buy five loaves of bread.”
The new notes are the latest currency reform in the troubled southern African country’s constantly changing, and at times confusing, monetary framework.
Zimbabwe now has the world’s second highest inflation after Venezuela, according to International Monetary Fund figures. With prices rising faster than at any point in a decade amid rapid devaluation of the local currency, cash is king.
In 2009, Zimbabwe’s government abandoned the local currency amid hyperinflation and adopted a multi-currency system dominated by the dollar. In June the government outlawed the use of foreign currencies, opting for a local currency mainly consisting of electronic and mobile money and a trickle of bank notes.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has struggled to fulfill promises to improve the economy two years after taking office following the resignation of the late Robert Mugabe.
Many retailers and service providers now demand payments in cash only. Others, including street vendors, charge a higher price for goods paid for using mobile money or bank cards.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe says it will “drip feed” ZW$1 billion in the new small notes and coins to manage the cash shortages. The highest denomination is ZW$5. The notes are strikingly similar in design to the old ones.
“It is just like the old money, and like the old money it can’t buy anything of value,” said 81-year-old Filbert Sibanda after withdrawing his monthly pension, enough to buy a kilogram of beef.
Other customers left disgruntled.
“This is not an improvement,” said Wicknell Magidha, waving a few new notes and a plastic bag filled with coins. “These coins are just too heavy.”
People trooped out of one bank carrying similar bags of coins, shaking their heads. Others in line laughed.
Magidha said the small bills and coins leave him with another headache, that of haggling with traders who usually reject them.
“The same item can have three different prices: one for cash, one for mobile money and another one for those paying using small coins,” Magidha said. “The government should just print higher denominations to match this inflation.”


Google Cloud prepares for Black Friday ‘peak on top of peak’

Updated 04 August 2020

Google Cloud prepares for Black Friday ‘peak on top of peak’

  • Cloud technology, used to host websites and store data, is a key part of many retailers’ e-commerce operations

OAKLAND, California: Alphabet’s Google Cloud unit is poised for a surge in fourth-quarter sales from US retailers, as they brace for record online shopping during the holidays because of COVID-19 lockdowns.
Cloud technology, used to host websites and store data, is a key part of many retailers’ e-commerce operations. As fees are often pegged to site traffic, a jump in activity will drive up revenue for the unit.
Carrie Tharp, vice president of retail and consumer at Google Cloud, said that her team had this year tossed out its linear growth model to predict how many servers it will need to process web orders for retailers around Black Friday.
“We’re planning for peak on top of peak,” she said on Monday. That could be a boon for Google Cloud, which has generated about 30 percent of its revenue during the fourth quarter the last two years.
Stores such as Kohls Corp. and Wayfair Inc. lean on Google months in advance to ensure it has enough servers to withstand increased shopping during holiday discount days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday in November and December.
This year, Black Friday-style demand has flooded shops since March, when the United States began lockdowns, Tharp said.
Holiday shopping is expected to boost demand further, as retailers including Target Corp. and Walmart Inc. have said they will reduce in-store hours because of coronavirus concerns.
Tharp said the pandemic has already benefitted Google Cloud, with some retailers adopting its predictive algorithms years ahead of plan to help them work out the most efficient way of fulfilling orders.
Electronics retailer Best Buy Co., for instance, announced on Tuesday a multi-year deal to centralize customer and product data with Google Cloud to improve its loyalty program and online ad campaigns.
The companies declined to elaborate on the deal, but Tharp said she hopes it leads to Google eventually powering Best Buy’s web ordering system.