Kwacha v cedi: The best and worst of African currencies

Kwacha v cedi: The best and worst of African currencies


A cocktail of factors has sent the global economy into a tailspin in recent years.

Beginning with the Covid-19 crisis in 2020 that saw international trade almost grind to a halt, and the invasion of Ukraine by Russia in February this year.

For African economies, trouble had been brewing even before these global crises.

Debt obligations had been on the rise, commodity prices falling and thus eroding foreign exchange earning power in some countries.

And with that, the goose for many African currencies against the US dollar had been cooked.

But most recently, the tale has been two-sided with the best performing as well as the worst performing currencies against the US dollar being from the continent.

Over the course of this year, the Zambian Kwacha has risen to become the best performing currency in the world against the dollar.

It has gained 15% so far into 2022 and was quoted at 15.93 to the dollar in Tuesday trading.

Experts have pegged these gains on President Hakainde Hichilema’s efforts to turn around the economy, mainly by reorganising its foreign debt to make it sustainable.

In September, the southern Africa country inked a crucial deal with the International Monetary Fund for a bail-out loan amounting to $1.3bn (£1.15bn).

The amount will give a lifeline to key social economic programmes such as funding schools and hospitals as the government embarks on renegotiation of expensive debt with China and other creditors.

The move has restored foreign investors’ faith in the copper producer.

This has also seen inflation cool off consistently at a time when even the most developed economies in the world are grappling with runaway inflation.

Zambia’s inflation has fallen from a high of 21% in October last year to 9.9% last month.

The Cedi

Further west in Ghana, the cedi is where the kwacha was in 2015.

On Monday, it was marked the world’s worst performing currency, according to the Bloomberg currency tracker that watches 148 currencies.

In midday trading, Tuesday, the Cedi was quoted at 11.64 to the US dollar. This indicates a 48% loss in value in the last 12 months.

The cedi’s position has been worsened by foreign investors losing confidence in the country and opting to dump Ghanaian dollar-denominated bonds from their portfolios.

According to the country’s Central Securities Depository, the amount of domestic government and corporate bonds in the hands of foreign investors fell to 12.3% in August.

This has seen Ghana fail to access cheap money from the international debt markets, and a Zambia-like deal with the IMF for $3bn in emergency funding is still in the works.

As a result, the cost of living in Ghana has been accelerating for the last 16 months with inflation hitting 37.2% in September.

On Monday, traders in Accra threatened to close down businesses for a second time in two months decrying the high cost of doing business.

Editorial Chief, Nigerian Bureau

Kings UBA is a Nigerian journalist and writer. I have reported for major local and international news organisations. I write satire. In 2017, I started contributing stories primarily to Discover Africa News Network. I can be reached on I currently manage Discover Africa News social media handles