Forex withdrawals: RBZ delivers on promise

by | Oct 6, 2021 | Business | 0 comments

Hosia Mviringi

When the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe announced that individuals would now be entitled to a weekly withdrawal of US$50 at the prevailing market rate, many doubted the practicality and sustainability of the arrangement.

The RBZ Monetary Committee (MPC) Resolution of August 27, 2021, noted with satisfaction the marked increase in forex receipts which went up by a remarkable 32 per cent to US$5.09 billion as at August 7, 2021 as compared to US$3.85 billion in the comparative period in 2020.

Buoyed by the US$961 million worth of International Monetary Fund Special Drawing Rights (SDR), the MPC recommended staying the course of the current monetary policy stance as the forex trading market stabilised and increased in credibility.

In the spirit of financial inclusion, the MPC recommended that the Bank widened access to foreign currency to include individuals as a way to discourage parallel market activities and boost confidence in the formal banking system.

As such, the Central Bank agreed to offer a maximum of US$50 per individual per week at prevailing market exchange rate.

True to the promise, on September 1, 2021 individuals began accessing forex at Bureau De Changes countrywide in a development described by ordinary people and market analysts as a masterstroke to curb black market activities.


The intervention came as a relief to individuals who were ineligible to bid at the forex auction market and were subjected to unbridled arbitrage on the parallel market.

Many people did not give the RBZ a chance for success and doubted the sustainability of the initiative as they thought that the bank would soon run out of cash.

However, a month down the road it appears like the RBZ has managed to allow ordinary citizens access to foreign currency through official channels.

A visit to Success Microfinance, one of the licenced Bureau de Changes in Harare CBD was a real eye-opener.

They operate a micro-lending and a rolling Bureau Exchange.

In the morning of October the 5th, 2021, people averaging 200 were milling uncontrollably around the door of the financial institution, waiting for it to open.

At eight o’clock, the jostling for a chance to be served began.

One would have been excused to doubt the efficiency and availability of cash at the bank.

But through sheer efficiency and dedication, by lunchtime, the Queue had been cleared, with a few remaining in the banking hall.

“The response from the public is overwhelming. At some point people could form a queue here as early as 0100hrs until we had to engage the police service to clear them for security reasons.

Now they start lining up from around 0500hrs, which is still to early for business but much better security wise,” said Mrs Resca Sande, branch Manager for Success Microfinance Bank at Karigamombe Centre.


Mrs Sande confessed that the process of serving and clearing the huge numbers of people daily has been challenging as it is not always easy managing such a large number of people at the same time, especially for a financial institution where security is always a matter of concern.

One month down the line, and still counting, they are soldiering on, making progress, but facing similar challenges daily.

“As a banker, and having worked extensively with the low end of society, I understand that it is my role to see to it that everyone is served with courtesy and dignity. I understand that if we don’t serve them here they have nowhere else to get the service. So we soldier on,” Mrs Sande said.

She confirmed that the Central Bank has religiously supplied them with their forex allocation, just like any other qualifying institution and that they have been able to clear all customers who average up to 200 each day.

“As bankers, we are implementers of Central Bank Policy. We execute policy directives diligently without doubting the planning that would have gone into it’s formulation. To that end I am confident that this policy is good for the country’s economy and that the RBZ has an elaborate plan to sustain it”.


“I have no doubt on my mind that the RBZ is doing a great job in supplying the market with forex. If we want to get realistic, we must admit that there are some demands of life that need an element of foreign currency. For instance if someone needs to settle their medical bills or pay school fees, they come to us for a loan, but then it becomes difficult for them to raise the forex component of their bills. That’s when this facility becomes handy,” Mrs Sande continued.


Reality is that no sane person would choose to transact on the black market when the banks are offering the service. With the inherent risks involved on the parallel market, the people feel relieved.

An encounter with a satisfied customer is always an emotional roller coaster.

For many customers, it is still strange and unbelievably gratifying to be able to lay hands on foreign currency without the hustle and risk of losing your money on the parallel market.

“I am ecstatic. I feel extremely happy that this is actually happening in this country in our lifetime. Who would have thought that one day we will not be chased after for seeking to lay our hands on forex?”s said a happy customer who preferred to remain anonymous.

“We all know that at some point in the old dispensation it was illegal to have forex in your hands. But now it’s happening freely”.

Perhaps one down side that needs addressing is the potential for such sites becoming Covid-19 super spreaders due to the large numbers of people converging there every day, otherwise, what is obtaining on the ground would warrant the footballing parlance “nyika yese irikufara.”