ADDIS ABEBA – The National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) said that it has collected 74.9 billion old Ethiopian birr notes since the start of currency change.
At least 57 billion of the old notes are in the vaults of commercial banks, said Solomon Desta, vice governor of the NBE, told the press conference on Tuesday.
Unveiled on September 14 , the new bank notes include the introduction of a new 200 birr note and unveiled new currencies of 10, 50 and 100 denominations. The decision aims to take out birr circulating outside of the financial system and helping commercial banks confront currency shortage.
NBE’s officials said the ongoing change is being carried out smoothly while urging the public to change old birr notes in their hands as soon as possible
“Citizens need to change old notes as quickly as possible to avoid possible crowds that may occur at the final days of the changing period,” the vice governor advised people who are in possession of the old notes.
NBE has so far distributed 90.4 billion birr of the new bank notes via 6561 branches of commercial banks across the country.
Boost in Saving
The bank’s rule of change requires people with over 5, 000 birr old notes to open a saving account to change their currencies. This has pushed the number of saving accounts to increase further.
As of Tuesday, vice governor Solomon said, at least 273,000 new accounts have been opened and 13.5 billion Birr deposited in these since the central bank started changing Birr on Sept 17.
The vice governor attributed the latest currency change for people’s decision to open new accounts and boost saving.
In the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) alone, over 16,700 customers were opening new saving accounts and above 351mln Birr were being deposited daily in the first two weeks, according to its officials.
Working with Embassies, Banks
Solomon said the majority of commercial banks have enabled at least 5, 308 of their Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) to read the new bank note and provide services.
At least 130 ATMs will begin giving services to customers soon, the vice governor said.
The withdrawal limit put in place – 50,000 for individuals and 75,000 for businesses per day – will remain there until the government says otherwise, according to the central bank.
The limit, however, will not include diplomats. Embassies can change large amounts of money if they have enough justification about the source of the money, Solomon said.
Downplays counterfeits impact
During Tuesday’s presser, the vice governor has downplayed reports that plenty of counterfeited new currencies have already been distributed in some parts of the country.
“This is not a big issue because we are now making the society aware of the difference between the original and fake notes,” he said.
There were few cases particularly in Gonder and Gojjam, he said and added that they “are few and could not have an impact on the market”. Even those, he said, are confiscated by security forces.
The National bank is currently encouraging all banks to use Ultra-violet (UV) lamps which can easily help them identify the original from fake birr notes.
Strict border control
Billions of Ethiopian birr are illegally circulating in the neighboring countries such as Djibouti, according to information obtained from the National Bank of Ethiopia.
The government “has already put strict security measures in place” in and around the border areas to control the inflow of old notes from those countries, Solomon told reporters.
By Mhret G/kristos