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Current Currency

May 25, 2012

A few weeks ago, a missionary friend not with MAF was trying to explain to our driver that she needed to cash a check and her normal check-cashing option was not available.  His simple question: what is a check?  After several explanations and, finally, giving up, he seemed quite intrigued: you give someone a piece of paper with an amount on it, and they hand you cash!  Awesome!

Obviously, here, the money works a little differently.  In the “Westernized” grocery stores, you can use plastic if you want, but I haven’t tried it.  There are ATMs you can use, if they’re 1) on, 2) working, and 3) have money.  There is a nice one that doesn’t charge a fee in the Commercial Centre that I used our first weeks here while we got things figured out.  Our best bet on actually obtaining cash is using the MAF office downtown.

So, today’s post is a bit about money.  The official currency here in DR Congo is the Congolese Franc.  It comes in 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 bills.  I’ve never seen a 10 or 20 and 50s are fairly rare.

200, 100, & 50 FC notes

US dollars are accepted, with many qualifications.  It must be in great condition.  Not just good, but great.  No tears.  Not a single, teeny tear.  Also, they only accept the “new” bills with the big number on the back.  And, only bills $5 and up.  No $1s and no coins.

Actually, we are currently living in a coinless society.  Weird, huh?  The only usefulness I could think of for coins are old school vending machines.  We don’t need those here…there are people everywhere selling snacks and cold drinks.  None of this impersonal automated ridiculosity!  You get stuff from people, not machines!

These are all 500FC notes. The top two are the same…despite their pickiness with USD, their money can be very worn, used, and dirty and still be accepted. The bottom note is a celebratory edition for 50 years of independence in 2010.

So, what is the exchange rate?  Well, seeing as the highest bill is 500FC, you’d hope it’d be reasonable.  It’s not.  The current rate is about 920FC/$1.  So, a 500 note is little more than fifty cents.  This is why are so glad merchants take the USD: our pockets are not big enough to carry around that many francs!

This is $200 worth of Congolese Francs

If you’ve seen us present our mission in person, you’ll remember one interesting fact: the cost of living here is estimated to be about 72% HIGHER than in the states.  One person we met who has spent many terms here said it is more expensive here than living in Manhattan.  Of course, that is maintaining Western standards of living, which many of the people here simply cannot do.  The average income is between $100 and $200 per month for the average Congolese.  Many families survive on just that.  It is complicated, and too much for a single post, but we would love to answer any questions you have about this polarizing economy and will continue this topic in a future post…

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 25, 2012 0829

    i love reading about your life there, it is so exciting. can you do a post on food you can buy

  2. May 25, 2012 0829

    WOW…interesting stuff. I collect foreign currency, Lisa. What would it take to get a 200FC note mailed to me??

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