Safari operators buckle under liquidity crunch

SAFARI operators have been hard hit by the current acute cash shortage further threatening their viability, businessdigest has learnt.

By Kudzai Kuwaza

The country is facing an acute cash crisis that has resulted in long winding queues outside most of the country’s banks. So dire is the situation that some banks have resorted to giving a maximum daily withdrawal of as little as US$50 instead of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) stipulated daily maximum withdrawal of US$1 000.

Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe (Soaz) chairman Emmanuel Fundira told businessdigest that the impact of the cash shortage on safari operators has been “terrible”.

“Our international clients are coming into the country and cannot get any cash from the ATMs,” Fundira said. “This means that foreign currency generation in the country has been blocked and this does not help our efforts to improve inflows in the country.”

Fundira said the cash shortages had also affected their outfield teams who operate in camps .The operations of the outfield teams, which are heavily reliant on cash, has been severely hampered by the cash crisis. The limitations in cash withdrawals, Fundira said, has made planning very difficult.

He said that the omission of tourism players from the priority list of importers further compounded the sector’s woes.

Fundira said the planned introduction of bond notes by the RBZ in October was a cause of concern for their clients.

“There is concern by clients over the introduction of bond notes,” Fundira said. “It is very difficult to instill confidence in an economy where people lost their earnings through the introduction of bearer’s cheques.”

He said there were concerns over various issues by clients, including whether they could redeem the bond notes adding that there is need for the RBZ to intensify awareness campaigns on the introduction of the new notes.

The development comes at a time Soaz is reeling from the effects of an ivory import ban by the United States, which has severely affected its revenue base.