No pennies in Ghana

There are no pennies in Ghana.

Okay, that’s not factually true. There ARE pennies in Ghana, it’s just that they’re rare enough that when Erin came back from Accra with some, we all gathered around and gawked at them at egg and bread in the morning, awe-struck as children by foreign currency.

You will never find a price for something that isn’t rounded to the nearest 5th pesua (about 3.5 cents). I have no idea whether they round up, or down, or whatever method is garnering so much debate in the “anti-penny” movement back home, and people seemed to think it was a funny question when I asked. The price is just the price (and there’s rarely any pesky tax paid to complicate things). If you do happen to try and accidentally pay for something with these 1 pesua pieces, you’re bound to be berated by the merchant. ‘Don’t waste my time with these little coins!’ seems to be the general sentiment.

It strikes me as odd that, in Ghana where you’d expect that one pesua might have so much more relative value compared to a penny in Canada (since one pesua is a much bigger fraction of people’s income here – still very small, but still), people have so much less patience for them.

About two years back, Ghana knocked 5 zeros of their currency. Therefore, 10,000 cedi is equal to 1 Ghana Cedi. People tend to use the two currencies interchangeably, which can be incredibly confusing and frustrating – I was once comparing two mattresses, one low-density foam and one high-density foam, and the merchant told me the low-density foam was “30” and the high-density foam “600” in the same sentence. An increase by a factor of 20 seemed a little extreme to me… What he meant was “30 Ghana Cedi” and “600 thousand cedi”. Can you blame me for being confused? News papers still love to use the old currency, presumably because “CORRUPTION CLAIMS 90 BILLION CEDIS” is a pretty awesome head line.

Back before they converted, 100 cedi coins and 200 cedi coins were in circulation and presumably being used (I understand Pure Watah used to be 200 cedi – more on that next week!). When the conversion happened, however, people seem to have just abandoned anything less than 5 pesua. Perhaps they just didn’t press enough pennies when they first made the shift, and people just adjusted – the same way we’ve grown adjusted to and dug our heels in to the use of those little copper pieces.

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3 Responses to No pennies in Ghana

  1. Pingback: Development Digest – 28/04/11 « What am I doing here?

  2. Tom Curran says:

    Interesting post. It’s amazing how easy it is for a way of thinking to become ingrained.

  3. obibinibruni says:

    I like your take on this haha I do want to add, however, that while highly uncommon, if you go to the malls or other higher-end places where you find more obrunis, then you will get pennies. My brother collects his, since he works at the mall and gets them whenever he buys himself anything there.

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