Currency: Cash Scarcity Chokes City Dwellers

Petty traders are now taking advantage of the inadequacy of smaller denominations of the legal tender to sell the FCFA in Yaounde

Smaller denominations of the FCFA currency are increasingly getting scarce in the capital city Yaounde as the days go by. But that doesn’t mean people are getting any richer. There seems to be an unexplained disappearance of smaller denominations of the FCFA currency, notably coins of 50, 100, and 500 and banks notes of 500, 1,000 and 2,000. Jean Tabi has been standing at the Central Post Office Roundabout for about 30mins on Tuesday morning, struggling to get a cab to Ngoa Ekelle. No taxi driver is ready to carry him because the said passenger is in possession of a FCFA 5, 000 note. Not even Tabi’s proposal of FCFA 300 out of the FCFA 5,000 for the drop lured a driver. “There is no change,” Tabi is repeatedly told.

Some meters from the Central Post Office Roundabout, precisely at the Immeuble Rose vicinity, a young civil servant chasing her files finds herself in the same disturbing situation of lack of smaller denominations. She too is in possession of a FCFA 5,000 note and intends to buy a file jacket which costs FCFA 100. Unable to get the product after several attempts, she gives up and stands in front of a nearby kiosk looking dejected. Thereafter, a mobile call box operator who was monitoring her movement turns up. The lad offers to change the FCFA 5,000 note into two FCFA 2,000 notes and one FCFA 1,000 note at the cost of FCFA 100.

Cameroon Tribune learned the guy who changed the money wasn’t doing it for the first time. In fact, like many others around the vicinity, the sale of smaller denominations is their stock in trade. One of the petit traders who specializes in changing money against a fee told Cameroon Tribune on grounds of anonymity that the business is their self-created job. The money changers will change FCFA 10,000 at FCFA 200, FCFA 5,000 at FCFA 1,00, while the  change of other denominations into smaller ones is negotiable depending on the nature of the transaction. And presumably to give the impression as though they were operating under the tutelage of the Ministry of Finance, the money vendors concentrate their unregulated activity around the ministerial building.

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