That line keeps running through my head here in Malawi. Money is a little shocking – as there are coins for 1 kwacha, 5, 10, and bills for 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000. When we arrived, and found out that 1000 kwacha is equal to about 2.5 USD, we wondered why there weren’t larger bills – only to be told by a friend that the 1000MK bills are relatively new!
The cost of living, in order to live like a typical Westerner, is equal to that at home. I am surprised every time I go shopping for groceries and spend $50 easily. It is a little disconcerting to be asked to hand over thousands of kwacha when shopping – but when 400 MK are equal to 1 USD, it quickly adds up!
And yet, my experiences here have also shown that it is possible to survive on a dollar a day – in fact, the majority of Malawians and the people I work with do that. And yet, it is simply surviving – barely having a roof, clothing, and food beyond nsima (corn meal porridge) and tomatoes for your two meals a day. The average Malawians are all malnourished – it is such a problem that Vitamin A packets are sold in the corner shops, and the government has passed a law requiring sugar producers to incorporate certain vitamins into their sugar.
It is fascinating and horrible to see the wide range in incomes and lifestyles here. As I live pretty similarly to at home (and although I’d be fine living with less luxury, it is generally expected of me to live like this, and if I didn’t, I’d be looked down upon by Malawians for not supporting their economy enough), it is not unusual to spend a few thousand kwacha on a meal, or on a taxi. However, for average Malawians, they go to the local restaurants (where I get food poisoning when I go, though I still do – it’s yummy food!) and spend less than 500 MK for a large meal, and catch a minibus to get home for 150 MK.
The other week, I noted a huge disparity in the way I and some of my refugee friends purchase phone credit – I buy it in multiples of 1000 MK, and they buy it in 20 MK increments. When 1 text costs 12 MK and they are purchasing less than 2 texts at a time, that shows me just how little money they have to spend on items beyond the life necessities.
And yet – it is such a diverse city, and when I was waiting at the bank the other day, I watched a lady deposit probably 3 or 4 million kwacha in her account – she had a full grocery bag of cash!
Anyhow – I just wanted to share some of my observations on the very interesting world of the kwacha!
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Welcome! My name is Katiana and I am a development professional pursuing my dream to live out Isaiah 1:17 to the best of my abilities. I am passionate about teaching and working with vulnerable families and children to improve their lives sustainably.
This blog is composed of my personal opinions, which do not necessarily reflect the opinion or views of institutions or organizations that I may be or have been affiliated with.