This week we are in the city of Dortmund, Germany, to experience German winter and Christmas. We are lodged at a hotel whose name and location we will not reveal because we don’t want to be targeted.
On our way here, we carried enough money, some in Malawi Kwacha, Zambia Kwacha, Kenya Shillings, US dollars, South Africa Rands and European Euros.
One thing we have learned in Europe is that soon and very soon the continent will be cashless. Here bank cards are prized and almost everybody pays through the credit-cum-debit card. Even alcohol, such as Deutsch fantakoko is paid through credit cards. But we, coming from a country that believes in carrying cash, did not have any card to use to pay for services and consumption. Professor Dr Joyce Befu, our leader of delegation, had applied for the cash passport from her bank but the application did not go through until we left Malawi.
As such, we decided to go to the main train station complex to change the money so that we could buy food, warm food, shavers and other paraphernalia.
We walked from our hotel to the Multi-Currency Bureau de Change along the Konigswall Avenue. As custodian of all the cash on this trip, I moved closer to the till while my colleagues took their seat in silence. The lady greeted me in Deutsch but I answered in French. She smiled.
“Vousetesfrançais [are you French?]” she asked.
“Non. Mais, j’suisfrancaphone [No. But I am francophone],” I responded and quickly changed to English. “We wish to change money!”
“All major currencies are available!” the lady said.
“And we have major currencies, too.”
“Let’s deal then,” the lady said smiling like Mary from Chikanda Inn.
“Here,” I said as I slid 10 thousand in Malawi kwacha.
“What’s this?” the lady asked in a mixture of shock and disappointment.
“Malawian currency, of course,” I said, “it’s a major currency”.
“Never seen this before, and how much is it worth?” the lady asked sarcastically.
“10 000 kwacha!” I replied.
“I mean in major international currencies such as the euro, dollars, British pound,” the lady explained.
“10 euros or a bit more,” I said.
“And what will you do with 10 euros when a meal alone costs over that?’ Asked the lady, adding, “And I am sorry I can’t change this because nobody else will ever come to buy it.”
I did not answer. Instead, I forked out 5 000 in South African rand.
“And what currency is that?”
“Rand. South African rand. Serious major currency from Mandelaland,” I said.
“I still can’t change that money. Nobody will buy it here. Nobody needs it. Do you have US dollars?”
“Let me check. How about Kenya shillings!”
“We don’t’ change that here!” the lady politely declined.
“Angola Kwanza? Mozambique Meticals? Tanzania Shillings?
The lady just smiled endlessly. Then I slowly took out two 100 US dollar notes and passed them on to her. She looked at them and slipped them under a neon light before taking out 180 Euros to give me.
“You know, I think you Africans need to have a continent wide currency instead of those valueless currencies that fill your pockets and suitcases. How can 10 000 be equal to 10 euros? You can call your Africa-wide currency the African!”
I smiled, “We will ask our politicians to come together and have the African as Africa’s single currency and we will value it at one to one to the Euro.”