Over the past few weeks, we have seen various financial organisations offer USD at the official rate of around $88 ZWL. First, it was ContiCash who were allowing people to buy as much as US$50 per week to individuals. Now we hear the NSSA affiliated bank NBS is offering as much as US$3 000 to those who want to buy foreign currency for the purpose of paying school fees. As part of this sweet deal, those benefiting will be asked to pay for the money at the official rate.

The bank is doing this through is Bureau de Change arm and if you need to take advantage of this offer you will need to follow these steps:

  • You need to be an NBS account holder. That will mean jumping through the bank’s KYC hoops but they also do offer a Lite Account with limited functionality that can be opened up in minutes
  • Get a valid invoice from your childs/beneficiary’s school.
  • Visit your nearest NBS branch and fill in the proper application forms
  • The turn around time for your applicaton is 24 hours and it’s not clear what you need to do in order to ensure that your application will suceed or if the bank has enough money to cater for all the applications they will probbly get.

NB, We have also heard of rumours that other banks including Steward Bank and other banks are offering similar services but it’s all been hush-hush as insiders at these institutions probably want to control who gets to utilise these services. They probably reckon this is not a sustainable exercise and want to take advantage of this themselves.

Is this sustainable?

I have been over this before. From your point of view as a beneficiary, this is not an important question. Given where black market rates are at the moment you need to jump at every opportunity you get to buy at below this rate. If your child is at a foreign school that demands payment in foreign currency you need to take advantage of this opportunity without even thinking twice about it.

As a nation, though I cannot help wonder if this is really a worthwhile pursuit by the central bank. It will only work if they have enough cash to finance the shortfalls we are seeing in the market. Based on what I have seen with the US$50 allocations this is nowhere near the case. The allocations haven’t had the slightest effect on black market rates that are now closing in on the 200 ZWL mark.

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