As the value of Zimbabwe's currency diminishes to virtually nothing, people in the country will start to exchange local dollars for U.S. ones Monday, gradually putting an official and legal end to the old currency, Zimbabwe's central bank announced Thursday. For 175 quadrillion Zimbabwean dollars, locals will be able to get $5. Eventually, Zimbabwean dollars will be sold as souvenirs, Reuters reported.
Beginning Monday, those who had bank accounts held in local dollars prior to March 2009 will be able to exchange their funds into dollars. They’ll have until September to make those conversions.
Those with up to 175 quadrillion Zimbabwean dollars in their accounts will receive $5. After that, funds would be exchanged at the rate of $1 to 35 quadrillion local dollars. (Thirty-five quadrillion is the same as 175,000 trillion.) Cash printed before 2009 can be converted at a rate of $1 to 250 trillion Zimbabwe dollars. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has designated $20 million for these transactions, Reuters reported.
Hyperinflation in recent years pushed Zimbabwe to begin using the U.S. dollar and the South African rand in 2009. Pula, from Botswana, and British pounds, are also used, while people can open bank accounts using Australian dollars, the Chinese yuan, Indian rupees or Japan’s yen, the BBC explains.
“The decommissioning of the Zimbabwean dollar has therefore been pending and long outstanding since 2009,” John Mangudya, head of the Reserve Bank, said Thursday, Bloomberg reported. “We cannot have two legal currency systems. We need therefore to safeguard the integrity of the multiple-currency system or dollarization in Zimbabwe.”
As far back as 2008, the Zimbabwean dollar was so worthless that bills in the hundreds of thousands would be left fluttering on the street, the Economist reported in July of that year. In years prior, inflation soared to 500 billion percent, forcing foreign currencies to become recognized as legal tender.