Zimbabwe’s currency madness

an easy illustration which even a child would understand, with the simplification that would still hold true when looked at from an economic lens

Animation depicting “Stunted growth in Livestock” concisely summarizes the situation

The tale of Zimbabwe’s currency and economic crisis is a highly complex one. Dating since 2008’s hyperinflation, a brief recovery was foiled by a drought, falling commodity prices and political instability that has led to an economy spiraling downwards since 2015.

The situation has been somewhat complicated by the introduction of controversial bond notes, a vulnerable mobile money service, and an ever-changing policy that birthed yet another currency.  

While policymakers use technical idiosyncrasies to proffer an explanation for the crisis, an average Zimbabwean citizen has created the most concise explanation through a two-minute animation.

“I created it because I had the impossible task of explaining what happened to the money to my daughter’s Grade 7 class,” Kuda Musasiwa commented. “I needed an easy illustration which even a child would understand, with the simplification that would still hold true when looked at from an economic lens.”

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The animation achieves what policymakers and analysts have battled to do: filter the crisis to its most plain form. Importantly, it explains how the banking system affects consumers.

In it, dollars are cows and bond notes are goats, and Musasiwa tries to explain how the Reserve Bank forced consumers to believe they hold the same value. It takes a tragicomic turn when Musasiwa has to explain Zimbabwe’s use of mobile money due to a currency shortage.

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“As time went by the government told me that their goats, that were valued identical to cows, could only be used as pictures of goats on my phone because the physical goats were in short supply,” the animation explains. The animation has since been translated to Shona and isiNdebele.

Musasiwa is a rapper who also doubles up as the owner of a vegetable delivery service and an advertising agency, knows the very weighty consequence of the currency shortage or a crash in the mobile service network.

Price volatility and the failure to maintain the 1:1 value of a dollar to bond note has slowed business. Farmers insist on cash, while “Ecocash enabled cartels” take a 15% to 20% premium. Like Zimbabwe’s economy, the short explainer offers no solutions. Instead, it lays out exactly what Zimbabweans have had to deal with.

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“My daughter finally understands what happened,” he said. “Even if she thinks it’s mad.”

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