A couple of weeks ago the ZWL: USD rate reached the all-important $1 000 ZWL:1 USD mark. Then it started falling and now it is hovering around the $800 ZWL:1 USD mark. During the ensuing days, we started noticing something. For the first time in a while, there was a divergence between what black market dealers on the streets of Harare were paying and the rate businesses were demanding when you wanted to pay using ZWL. It seems even though the street rate has fallen to around $800 ZWL per 1 USD, a lot of shops we surveyed are still using a rate far above this mark although more and more businesses are reducing their rate to $800 ZWL per 1 USD.
During our most recent price survey this week we noticed the following trends when it comes to rates and ZWL payment options:
- The rate stabilised during the last week of July and crystalised around the $1 000 ZWL-$950 ZWL mark
- During the first week of August, the rate was now hovering around the $800 ZWL mark for large sums.
- Despite this most businesses were using a rate of around $950 when you offered to pay using ZWL/RTGS
- Larger businesses like OK and other Supermarkets seemed to be using a rate of $1 000 ZWL per 1 USD when setting their prices. We can deduce the rate used by various means including comparing prices shown on the shelves and prices shown in the relevant shop’s online shop. OK, FoodWorld, Spar and Trade Centre (also Food World) have various online shops where they sell exclusively in USD. We also compare with what “Tuckshops” are charging while being mindful of the overheads gap between smaller shops and supermarkets.
- The rate that smaller shops use changed over the Heroes Holiday and seem to be now coinciding with the $800 ZWL per 1 USD mark. A lot of the big supermarkets have stuck to their guns and are still using an implied rate of $1 000 ZWL
- The last time we observed a stark difference between the rates of the streets and the rates in shops was back in 2021 when the Financial Intelligence Unit announced that they had frozen several bank accounts of suspected black market dealers.
It is not unusual for there to be a difference between black market rates and rates that shops use. The differences can be explained by a couple of things:
- Shops often buy foreign currency from the black market dealers on the streets. These dealers naturally sell at a higher rate than the one they pay members of the public on the street. It is a business to them so they buy low and sell high to these shops
- Shops, therefore, use the actual rate they pay when setting their prices. Obviously, this is higher than the street rate. In accounting and finance, you make sure that you include all the actual costs you incurred when you conducted a transaction and make sure you put a mark-up that allows you to stay afloat on top.
- Often times shops are wary of the risk that the rate will rise before they convert their RTGS to USD. They try to protect themselves by using a rate that is higher than the current rate they are actually paying to their dealers. Sadly this oftentimes becomes a self-fulfiling prophesy and the rate actually rises as a result.
- Shops are therefore thrown in a loop when instead of rising the rate actually falls as has recently happened. There is often a lag time between them actually accepting that the rate has truly fallen and reducing the rate they use
Our rates page explained again
One of the most requested and viewed pages on the Zimpricecheck website is our Official and Unofficial rates page. The reason why it’s so popular is not even a mystery. Zimbabweans understand the link between official and unofficial ZWL rates and the prices they have to pay in shops. When the rate goes up prices and inflation go up in pursuit of the rate. Everyone be they individuals, small businesses or even large businesses make it their habit to make sure that they are aware of current rates so as to be able to make informed decisions.
We are painfully aware of this fact and have over the years gathered and included various rates on and placed them on that page. Most people often just load the page and take a glance at the current rates and move on with their lives. On most days that is all they need to do however these past days a lot of people have been left confused by the rates shown there which seem to have remained higher than street rates. This is because, as clearly explained multiple times on that page, we are interested in the rates that shops and businesses use in setting their prices rather than street rates. We see our rates as something akin to the OMIR of yester years rather than black market gurus.