I Held 5 Billion Dollars

Not, unfortunately, American dollars. It was Zimbabwean dollars, and it was one note.

How can they fit so many zeros on a single bill? And yes, these are real:

Zimbabwe dollars

My neighbor here in Kampala is from Zimbabwe, and one evening he pulled out a couple of their bills to show me. Apparently, during the times when the inflation rates were in the thousands of percents, you could leave to buy a loaf of bread for 3 billion dollars, but by the time you got to the store it would cost 5 billion. How are you supposed to function in an economy like that? (notice that he and his family now live in Uganda instead)

It turns out that the only currency that actually has any value are gas credits which are pinned to the American dollar. If you have a good job, you might get paid in gas credits, and if you have relatives overseas, that is what they will try to send to you. You can then trade those credits for food, clothing, or whatever else you need.

Despite a completely disfunctional economy, Robert Mugabe is still solidly in charge, and probably feels like he is doing a darn good job. Why does power so often come with a total disconnect from reality?


Mark D. Jordahl – Kampala

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About Mark D. Jordahl

Mark Jordahl is a writer, trip leader and naturalist who has lived much of the last 7 years in Uganda and currently calls Colorado home.
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