BY Winta Assefa
Ethiopia’s currency, the Ethiopian Birr (ETB), had been losing its value over the years. Yes, Ethiopia’s GDP is said to be in the double digits and my country has been named one of the fastest growing nations, not just in Africa but in the world. However, the same amount money could buy one less items than it used to just a short time ago: inflation is on the increase, the birr’s value is on the decrease.
Don’t worry; this ain’t yet another depressing article about the little tragedies of another African nation. Here is a short list of stuff one can still do with just one ETB. I highly doubt that you’d find these items priced over one birr- but it’s not really impossible.
Note: 1 ETB = 0.048 U.S Dollar (1 U.S Dollar could turn into 21.03 birr! I know, I know)
1- BAND-AID: Uno birr can still cover your cuts. One of the main features of Addis streets and boulevards are souqs, small one-room markets which sell small individual items. You can find most of your everyday needs- one mini shampoo, one razor, one pencil- all within the walls of these small markets.
Now this is on the list because I am one of the folk who panic about little things such as cuts. I am an architecture student who regularly uses cutters and wires in class-cuts are inevitable. So, I always keep a band-aid in my bag.
But accidents happen elsewhere too. One can get a cut from the edge of a mini-bus’ wooden bench, run a toe against a wooden branch on the floor, rub a finger against the edge of some stray nail. It’s all possible. Especially here.
2- PEANUTS: aand birr can buy you aand packet of peanuts; a perfect protein-rich snack (unless you poor thing have an allergy to these delicious nuts). The peanuts are sold in small sealed plastic packets of varying sizes. The size of the plastic packets and quality of the roasted peanuts depends on the souq you buy it from. Most of the time, the nuts are just okay. Sometimes, they’re actually quite exceptional.
All of the peanuts are still in their coats so I believe its hygienic food. Non-Amharic speakers: peanuts are called louz. In the beginning, it was quite confusing (and interesting) to me to find out that the word louz (meaning almonds in Arabic) is the same word used for another sort of nuts here, in Ethiopia.
But hey, nuts are nuts. Almonds and peanuts: they’re just brothers from different mothers.The main difference between these two nuts, in Ethiopia, is that almonds are naughty-they love playing hide and seek. Unlike peanuts, one can’t find almonds as easily. I learnt to just ditch them. There are other things to miss.
3- INTERNET: Some internet cafes charge around 1 birr for five minutes of internet. Got just one photo to upload? A couple of messages you need to urgently check on Facebook? Some random thing you want to Google? Just take a seat and finish off your task. It will barely cost you anything.
4- CHEWING-GUM: Overslept a little? Didn’t get the time to brush your teeth? Hakuna matata. One does not even need to go to a souq to buy gum: they sell it everywhere. A word of advice. Don’t buy the cinnamon flavored ones. They burn! I’m an Ethiopian accustomed to the country’s spicy traditional foods- when I tell you something burns, you’ve got to take my word.
5- HAIR-PIN: Like many other items here, you can buy hairpins individually. One piece is usually sold for just one birr. Perfect for when you get sick of your bangs blowing in your face or forgot your hair-band at home.
6- KITKAT CHUNKY CHOCOLATE: due to government subsidies on sugar products, we have the cheapest chocolates in the world. One can buy an entire bar of chocolate for just one birr. Since the subsidies were introduced in 2011, the price of chocolates and biscuits had been rapidly decreasing while the prices of vegetables and fruits rose: children’s ultimate dream. We have all sorts of chocolate brands competing against each other now. International vs. Domestic, Wafer vs. Caramel, Dark vs. Milk. Battle is still on and customers always win.
Note: In Number 6, I was being quite economical with the truth. Okay, let’s be honest, 6’s a blatant lie. (Oh how I wish it wasn’t)
The rest of the items are all at the correct price as far as I am concerned. Have fun with your one birr coin/note. Let me know what could be done by a unit of your currency in the comments down there.
N.B. I just wanted to include items sold at less than one birr: Needle, A4 sheet, tiny plastic hair-clip