Social media is awash with a fake public notice that is making rounds titled “Misuse of Money”
The notice was deceitfully made to appear as one originating from the Bank of Uganda (BoU). In a futile attempt to portray legitimacy, the fake notice lawlessly included the signature of the Deputy Governor(an act that I strongly do not condone).
However, amidst all the factual distortions in the legal provisions for the handling legal tender, and the questionable intentions of this notice, this “social media prank”, to an extent, carried a strong message in discouraging the public from “misusing Ugandan money in form of making gifts for loved ones”.
The most logical example of banknote misuse that came to mind was the “Money Bouquet.”
A money bouquet is an attractively arranged bunch of flowers with several brand-new banknotes folded within it. These bouquets have in the recent past become trendy in gifting loved ones. Perhaps this is driven by the intention to portray a facade of financial grandeur to loved ones.
In several instances, numerous new banknotes have been damaged by this trend. Some money Bouquet designs require the banknote edges or corners to be glued together. Other designs require several sharp foldings to be made on the notes; these crease lines remain on the banknote for a long time.
When these notes are deposited into the banking system, they are often deemed “unfit” to be put back into circulation. Ugandan banknotes are developed to have an average lifespan of 2 to 3 years, depending on how it’s publicly handled. The practice of exchanging money bouquets impacts the durability and longevity of banknotes.
The Bank of Uganda Act 2000, chapter 51 mandates the Bank of Uganda to be the sole issuer of legal tender in Uganda. According to the BoU annual reports, currency printing and minting is an expensive venture and ranks among the top Central bank expenses in its financial statements, as is the case with central banks worldwide. In line with international best practices, BoU has gone to great lengths to embed numerous security features designed to guard against counterfeiting. With the several security features present, counterfeiting has been made difficult, and offered the public an array of security features to differentiate genuine notes from counterfeit notes.
The general public has a critical role in the cost reduction of banknote printing by ensuring better handling of banknotes to increase their longevity. The popularisation of money bouquets has not helped in achieving this. Relatedly, Currency printing costs can further be reduced by embracing mobile money and other electronic payment options for day-to-day transactions. Some of these payment options have zero transaction fees thus making them affordable to the usual citizen.
Perhaps, if the general public can rethink how they handle banknotes then perhaps the country could realise cost savings in currency printing to better service delivery for the citizens of Uganda.
The author works with Bank of Uganda