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Currency control measures in Zambia

ZAMBIA (eTN) – When Sylvia Masebo visited Livingstone last week she was accompanied by Leonard Kalinde from the Bank of Zambia.

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ZAMBIA (eTN) – When Sylvia Masebo visited Livingstone last week she was accompanied by Leonard Kalinde from the Bank of Zambia. According to the report by, Leonard Kalinde said that the use of dollars by companies had been a way of avoiding paying tax. He complained that money from sectors like tourism had not been coming into the country and was depriving Zambia of foreign currency earnings.

I have said before that I am not an expert of economics but I don’t understand this. Before the new SI on using only kwacha, credit card machines took dollars which went into a dollar account. It came to Zambia but it was in dollars. Now the credit card machines have been changed into kwacha and, therefore, we are getting kwacha, but the same value.

Most companies use an accounting package on their computers into which all transactions are placed. These accounting packages automatically calculate tax, etc., and cannot, as far as I know, be “fiddled” with. Also, with most companies now, there are many shareholders who all expect to have their dividends paid, so they are going to complain if the accounts are not done properly.

So, as I said, I am very confused. It just seems to me that we will be getting less dollars coming into the country now. And accounts will be done in exactly the same way.

From a personal perspective, I notice the queues at the bank so that visitors can change their dollars into kwacha so that they can buy goods. It reminded me of one of Given Lubinda’s comments at a meeting in Livingstone while he was Minister of Tourism. He said that he had been to Brazil (I think), and wanted to buy a souvenir to bring home, but because he only had dollars, he couldn’t buy one – he didn’t have time to go to a bank to change to the local currency. He came home without the souvenir. Who lost in that deal?

I know that our curio sellers/taxi drivers are not struggling with the new SI on currency control. They will sell in dollars, rand, pula… whatever currency you like. So, please, if you are visiting, don’t worry about getting around or buying a curio in dollars. Just remember that money changers on the street or hanging around the borders are illegal, but sometimes there is no choice. If you deal with them you do so at your own risk – some of them have a terrible reputation. The best idea is to get someone trustworthy to go with you to do the transaction. Find a Customs Officer at the border or possibly a taxi driver if you are in town.

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