The scarcity of coinsis currently affecting almost every sector of business. But what can be done?
Ask taxi drivers, street vendors, call-box operators or businessmen in supermarkets and retail shops; the answer is the same. They are witnessing dwindling returns in their businesses due to the acute shortage of coinsin Cameroon.
''I losemore than 20customers each day because I don't have coins to give in the form of change. I used to take home at least CFA 6,000 every day as gains buttoday, it is difficult to make a CFA 3,000 gain,'' Alfred Suh, a call-box operator in Yaoundé told Cameroon Insider.
A dealerin tomatoesin Yaoundé had a similarstory: ''Itis common for customers to express the desire to buy tomatoes for CFA 200 or CFA 300 with a banknote in hand. I can't perform magic to be able to serve over thirty of such customers per day; I simply let them go."
Faced with this situation, traders have devised variousstrategiesto facilitate their exchange."We place orders for coins in service stations through a percentage system. The percentage demanded is huge but we are obliged to do so in order to maintain our customers" a store manager revealed.
Buyers are not immune to the shortage of coins in business settings in Yaoundé, "You may give a thousand franc to a seller wanting to buy something for CFA 700 or CFA 800, but the seller will tell you that there are no coins," complained Tebo Hazor, a Yaoundé resident Money Laundering Many businesses in Yaoundé and Douala notably supermarkets, retail shops and even pharmacies, now offersweetsto customersinstead of coins as change.
In other business enterprises, there are notices warning customers on the scarcity of coins.
Both passengers and public transport driversin these cities often find themselves losing a portion of their money. For instance, some taxi drivers in Douala simply take the banknote and drive off claiming that the customer did not inform them about the banknotes at the time of boarding.
Some taxi driversin Cameroon's economic capital simply inform passengers:"If you don't have coins, do not board my taxi" Some traders have resorted to increasing the prices of essential household items to a round figure in order to facilitate their exchange. In this situation the buyers are obliged to do impulse-buying.
Even worse, petty traders now take advantage of the acute shortage of coins to perpetrate money laundering. These money vendors would give CFA 9,500 in coins, in return for a ten thousand banknote.
Crux of the phenomenon.
There are numerous stories about game machines from some Asian countriesthat are said to swallow up the coins. These coins are eventually transported to these countries to make jewellery to be sold at higher values.
However, Professor Georges Mbondo, an economic analyst in the University of Douala says that some people have taken advantage of the situation and are now ''hoarding the coins" to latersell at a higher value.
During a board meeting of the Bank of Central African States last April in Cameroon's Economic capital Douala, member countries of the Economic andMonetary Community of Central African States (CEMAC) were instructed to bar the use of coinsin gaming rooms.
Member states were also exhorted to define a multi-year plan for making coins available to the population.
A couple of years back, vendors and service providers in Cameroon turned down coins of smaller denominations (CFA 1, CFA 2 and CFA 5) during businesstransactions.
Economic experts havewarned that persistence in the shortage ofthe higher-value coins of smaller denomination (CFA25, CFA50, and CFA100) would expose Cameroon to various forms of inflation.