Cost of Lesson: 30 cedi

30 cedi (about $30): The amount liberated from my hands by the black market money changer in Accra.

After a surprisingly easy negotiation over the rate (25 cedi to 10,000 CFA- better than the international bank rate!), it was an altogether friendly experience. I counted the money, making him add bills- there were only 7 cedi missing at that point. Then he grabbed it out of my hands to be recounted, as new boys showed up to help with the transaction. I then had to count the cash again, at which point he grabbed it out of my hands, passed it to another boy, who put a rubber band around the cash and gave it back to me. I finally got a hold of the money, put the thrice counted amount in my bag, shook his hand, and walked with purpose down the alley as fast as I could into the crowded market. It took me a couple hours to recount the money before I figured out that 30 cedi was missing. What a rookie.

How did I end up in this situation? On a weekend trip to Ghana (I am based in neighboring Togo) I hitched the 4 hour bush taxi to Accra. Intimidated by the mass of money changers at the border, and convinced that I didn’t want to pay to exchange money twice (Dollars to CFA to Cedi), I took just enough cash to get to Accra, and a few extra bucks for a cab to town from the bus depot. Once I arrived, I walked to four different banks and then took a taxi to three more only to discover that there are literally NO banks in the country that accept my ATM card. Note to travelers: Ghana only has the Visa network, no mastercard to be found anywhere. I hear the same goes with Mali. Walking up from the market place, with 2 cedi in my pocket, not enough to pay for a cab ride back to the bus depot, this charming young man offers me a good rate on money changing.

Lesson #1: Hustlers are really friendly and nice!

Lesson #2: Change money at the border where there are dozens of money changers- as it turns out competition, and a small marketplace do result in better rates. Although they give you a rate of 23.5 to 1000 CFA, they don’t steal an extra 30 cedi in the transaction. Also, they offer a better rate than my bank, given all the fees.

The duh lesson: When the negotiation is too easy, you’re getting ripped off- a variation on when it sounds too good to be true…


2 Responses to “Cost of Lesson: 30 cedi”

  1. matt Says:

    togo? ghana? wow…you are all over. What happened to Côte d’Ivoire? You’re still with Kiva right?

  2. Christian Says:

    When will we be able to see some photos posted from your travels and incredible work? What similarities, if any do you see in the development of West Africa to that of China? I trust you are well and looking forward to catching up when you are back in the states.

    Christian Giannini

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