We’re feeling pretty rich these days because according to our Barclay’s bank statement (from the local Lusaka branch) we have over 35 million in our account! Oh, the things I can do and the projects I can fund.
My fantasies soon crumbled when Thom called and said we needed 50 million to buy a new car. Okay, back to reality, we’re only millionaires in the local currency, called kwatcha, for which the exchange rate is roughly 5000 kwatcha to $1. (Depending on where you change your money, the rate can be 4620 kw to $1 up to about 4800 kw to $1). This means that a 50,000 kwatcha bill (below) is about $10.
So, every time I go to buy something I have to calculate in my head how much the item or service is in dollars, or else I might buy what I think is a $5 camisole for $50 (at Woolworth’s no less) like I did last September.
The 1000 kwatcha bills (see below) are typically used to tip people and are worth only about 20 cents each.
The wage / monetary system here is on a completely different scale.
Not only are the bills larger than U.S. bills, but so are the checks. The checkbook doesn’t even fit in my purse. As a comparison see the U.S. vs. Zambian checks below.
One thing that is slightly disturbing to me about the banking system here is that the tellers still use hand-written ledgers (and this is Barclay’s, an international banking giant!). It’s a strange mix of modern and archaic. When we opened our account they gave us plastic ATM cards (just like in the states) and then they hand-wrote our account number, our PIN number, the date, and had us print and then sign our names in black ink.
I can just imagine some poor soul in London receiving a box of ledgers like those above and then hand-entering all of the entries from third-world country ledgers.