Caribbean Thoughts

by Carol Mitchell

Money Matters

Old Cedi of GhanaMoney is on the tip of the tongues of many in Ghana; just not in their hands. But this article is not about poverty, instead it is about currency.

On July 2, 2007, one unit of Ghanaian currency (displayed on the above) was worth about 1/10000th of a US dollar. So a loaf of bread may have cost about 15,000 cedis.

Ghana Cedi

Then on July 3, the Ghana Central Bank revalued the currency, recalling all existing notes and coins and replacing them with new notes and coins that, at that time, were equal to the US currency. The new currency (displayed on the right) is called the Ghana cedi. Today 1 GHC is worth approximately 66 US cents and that loaf of bread costs about 2 cedis.

I can only imagine the initial confusion that existed when the currency was first revalued. I can imagine it all the more because it still exists. The picture on the left shows two advertisements used to help people to do the math to convert from the old currency to the new one.

Many vendors still think of the value of their goods in the old currency. I went to Makola market for the first time shortly after we arrived, seeking a lunch bag for my son for school, I was quoted prices from 45 GHc (about US30) up to 500 GHc. I did not know about the revaluation at that time and I left the market empty-handed wondering how we were going to afford to live in this place.

When it comes to big ticket items, some people don’t try to convert I suspect to ensure that they get it correct. I was once offered 100 million for my car. I was just about to flag down a taxi when I realised that he was quoting the old currency. Ah well!

Interestingly enough when you present actual cash, the vendors understand exactly what is due them. I suspect that between the conversion from old to new and the conversion of the numbers from their local language to English, something gets lost in the translation!

Note: The word “cedi” is derived from the Akan word for cowry shell. Cowry shells were once used in Ghana as a form of currency. A cedi is divided into 100 pesewas.
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