The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has announced plans to launch a gold-backed digital currency as a legal tender to counter the persistent depreciation of its local currency against the US dollar. This innovative approach is expected to provide much-needed stability to the Zimbabwean economy, plagued by inflation and currency volatility for over a decade.
Gold-Backed Digital Currency: A Hedge against Volatility
To make the currency accessible to more Zimbabweans, the gold-backed digital token will allow for the exchange of small amounts of Zimbabwean dollars. The Sunday Mail, a local news source, reports that this move aims to ensure that “no one and no place [is] left behind,” according to RBZ Governor John Mangudya. The government hopes to create a more stable and secure legal tender by pegging the digital currency to gold.
The current exchange rate for Zimbabwe’s currency stands at 1,001 ZWL per US dollar, but it is commonly traded at 1,750 ZWL on the streets of Harare, the nation’s capital, as reported by Bloomberg. In March, the annual consumer price inflation reached a one-year low of 87.6%, a slight decrease from 92% in February.
Governor Mangudya expects the parallel market exchange rate to stabilize once tobacco farmers receive US dollar payments in the coming weeks. He explains that the current volatility in the exchange rate is due to “expectations of increased foreign currency supply” in the market due to the tobacco season.
Alternative Currencies: Businesses Take Matters into Their Own Hands
In response to the ongoing monetary dysfunction in Zimbabwe and the lack of significant changes, businesses have resorted to creating their forms of money, often in handwritten paper notes, according to a Wall Street Journal report from March. These makeshift currencies facilitate future purchases, reflecting the desperate measures to navigate the unstable economy.
Zimbabwe has struggled with currency instability and rampant inflation for over a decade. 2009 the nation adopted the US dollar as its official currency following hyperinflation. However, in 2019, the Zimbabwean dollar was reintroduced to revive the struggling economy. Last year, the government reverted to using the US dollar to curb surging prices nationwide.
Cryptocurrency Adoption in Africa
The growing adoption of cryptocurrencies in many African countries can be attributed to the region’s economic challenges. Chainalysis reports that the Middle East and North Africa is the fastest-growing region for crypto adoption, driven primarily by cross-border remittances. Crypto transactions in the region exceeded $566 billion between July 2021 and June 2022, a 48% increase from the previous year.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s decision to introduce a gold-backed digital currency as legal tender represents a bold and innovative approach to tackling the nation’s persistent economic challenges.
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