A New Dawn

Written By: The Lowdown - Feb• 28•13

small cover 2013 02The long awaited New Years Day arrived and the new dawn heralded the revalued Kwacha.  KR was finally here and overnight Zambia’s billion and millionaires disappeared, their bank account balances becoming easily readable numbers.

The run-up to KR-Day was only slightly chaotic with the likes of Zesco being closed for the last few days of December and ATM machines being offline as well. Certainly the daily press carried adverts that this was going to be the case although I am sure that there were still a number of households who found themselves relying on candles and mbaulas because they had not recharged their accounts.

With, I imagine, most people sporting hangovers or merely suffering from a lack of sleep, 1 January was quiet in the shops that were open. I dropped into Pick n Pay for a few items. The prices of most of their goods were showing up as KR at the till, but there was a problem at the meat department.  They had a glitch with the system and were turning away customers who were buying anything but pre-packed meat. Their staff did a good job of explaining to customers and assured us that this was being worked on. Most customers were happy until along came an unreasonable customer (me) who insisted that I must have the cut of meat that I wanted.  Well done to Ali who spoke with the supervisor and between them they figured out a way to solve the problem.

2 January was a different story for some.  I understand one of the banks had a power failure over the previous weekend which resulted in them losing or corrupting a major database.  Clients who were trying to transact business were unable to do so. Commercial banks seemed to have very low stocks of KR 100, KR 50 and KR 20 notes (or perhaps it was just my branch). I was not enamoured with the pile of KR 5 notes that I was given when cashing a cheque!

There are also stories of ZESCO cashiers being grabbed over the counter because the voucher they issued said KR 300 insteasd of K 300,000 and then the inevitable rip offs – people in Siavonga paying  K3,000 for KR 1. The novelty of a new currency.

But overall the rebasing seems to have gone fairly smoothly, the flow of money has not ground to a halt and it is so nice not to have to deal with all those zeroes!!


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