Bureaux de change are indeed the way to go

OUR country’s economic instability over the past couple of decades has left many of us so bruised and faithless in policies implemented by any government body such that when opportunities are presented, our first instinct is to reject them out rightly.

However, the proposal or rather the challenge that Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya threw our way when he recently presented the Monetary Policy Statement (MPS) last month really got me thinking.

Like most unemployed university graduates, I had resorted to doing anything and everything to try and eke out a living.  
I have been involved in many business ventures from cross-border trading, selling bales of second-hand clothing and currently money changing — just to put food on my table.
Before dollarisation in 2009, I remember seeing lots of dealers “burning money” and living large on proceeds from money changing. 
Upon dollarisation, they had to humbly crawl back to where they had come from after that opportunity to make money disappeared. 
With the introduction of the bond notes in 2016, it made sense for me to join the ranks of forex traders that descended on most corners. 
Yes the profits have been good but the risk involved are equally high.
As Mangudya correctly noted in his MPS, the parallel market rate of exchange is high because of the risk premium, the biggest being a prison term of up to 10 years if one is caught. 
The police have not only been the biggest threat that we have had to contend with. We have had a number of times dubious characters who turn up with fake notes. 
A number of our colleagues have been lured by con artists, pretending to be business people only to be physically attacked and robbed.
These are just examples of the risks associated with illegal money changing which a properly registered bureau de change industry will address.
To avoid the risks, the governor of the RBZ has invited those interested in opening bureaux de change to do so.
This is an opportunity for those in the informal money changing business, it means we need to formalise our activities.
Some say the parallel market will always be there as it offers better rates than formal institutions. I beg to differ. 
Within the blink of an eye, money changers were displaced by the formal establishments 11 years ago.
Instead of waiting for the inevitable and allow history to repeat itself, it is better to formalise the corner offices at Roadport and the “World Bank” in Bulawayo. 
Getting a licence for a proper bureau de change secures a future, creates employment opportunities for others and helps grow our financial services and other sectors of the economy.
At the moment, the country has a few bureaux de change, which means there is a greater opportunity to venture into the market now while there isn’t much competition.
If locals do not embrace this, foreign investors will grab this chance as they are always watching out for investment opportunities.
I hope that the RBZ will help many forex traders to formalise their entities by avoiding red tape.
The operational guidelines issued by the RBZ also seem to be too complicated for an average professional. It would be of help if a team from the RBZ would conduct sessions to help those interested to understand these guidelines.
The US$10 000 trading cap for the bureau de change also seem to pose a challenge for more successful traders who  have been trading much more than this figure. 
Even though the licencing fees have been cut by more than half, they are still prohibitive for most of us to meet.
Perhaps the government might assist by organising some facility for us to meet the minimum capital requirements and offer training on foreign currency trading to make the whole transition less frightening.

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