Thu, 17/01/2019 - 20:26


The streets of Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, are usually heaving with Christmas shoppers at this time of year – crowding around vendors to buy in treats for the festivities.

But this week hawkers have been standing around for hours without a single customer showing interest. “It is a troubling sign when you have more sellers than buyers,” a honey seller on Carey Street told me.

The major reason for this is that for more than a month now people have not been able to get hold of cash from their banks – and that’s where the crowds are.

Someone wanting to withdraw, for example, 25,000 Liberia dollars ($160: £127) is given just 5,000 Liberian dollars ($36) – and that is after waiting days in a queue.

The cash shortage appears linked to the mystery over the alleged disappearance in March of more than $100m-worth (£76m) of newly printed bank notes intended for the central bank.

The notes allegedly vanished from containers in Monrovia’s port and airport - and the government ordered an investigation in September – though that is likely to take months, if not years, to complete.