My ears heaved to the next counter conversation. It was on one Government Bank; Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE), Addis Ababa branch. The conversation was between a front line foreign exchange officer and a traveller who was requesting foreign exchange for travel. The conversation was started as an entitled but finally turned to begging.
She said: “No dollar for exchange.”
He replied: “No, I have to go.”
She replied again:“We already finished what we have.”
He started begging: “Please, I have to go, I need it.”
One from the clients who is aware the situation tries to tell us the trend of the bank. And clarified “now the time is the beginning of the afternoon, the dollar amount what the bank has usually finished in the morning.”
What the prevalence makes wittier; all this begging is just to get USD200 allocated per travellers. He was unlucky even to get that.
It recalled, the National Bank has been amended the cash limit for travellers in different times and all has been progressive. The latest amendment on the cash limit was made in 2009 was USD3000. These days the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) maximum amounts allowed per traveller is only USD200 even the maximum limit is USD3000.
It was not an issue getting dollar for traveling once a traveller can secure visa and ticket. But in these few years the issue is turning to finding dollar exchange. Getting cash dollar for traveling became tougher than getting visa.
Ethiopian reason of traveling and travellers dollar spending nature is another case. As a nation we also have passengers traveling for holiday and shopping. But they are insignificant in number. Most of the travellers are travel for business, meetings, education, medical treatments and the like. They use their dollar only for considerate expenditures.
Traveling opens eyes, learn a lot about destinations creates opportunity, develops skills, give perspective, and move forward and totally it is education and a means to build a citizen who is open and full of opportunity. It must not be a less prioritised and ignored by USD200.
The problem might have rolling factor. In fact the country is under consistence trade deficit due to diverse factors. Our export can’t grip the rise in import. It is reputedly quoted the quality of our export products and their standards on the eye of international market competency are not raising adjacent competitors.
The exposure of the exporters to world, travel experience of all personals engaged on export desks, the concept of the logistic stakeholders about how the other world is doing their job and other governmental bodies travel experience and sharing of experience with the rest of the world would have considerable impact. Unfortunately, still we have a tailback to travel and share the world.
How a lesser priority given for traveling by allocating only USD200 even national bank limit is USD3000? Whatever the reason of traveling, wherever the destination and how long days of stay; which expenditures can be covered by USD200? To what alternatives it will lead the travellers to find a solution? All needs to be answered!
I personally, travelled both in good and bad times of dollar exchange allocation per traveller. In the past years banks were gave relatively considerable amount of foreign exchange for travellers. But the case became worsened in the recent two years and currently it reaches USD200 with possibility of unlucky to get it even.
I well experienced lots of worries and complications by traveling with inadequate dollar cash and substitute currency. That is why the conversation takes me back and remembers all what happened up on me due to dollar cash shortage. It must be considerable.
Daniel Gashaw Erkyihun, General Manager JAD Business and Investment Consulting,
By Daniel Gashaw Erkyihun