New Use Seen for Worthless Paper Money

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"Bank notes that have depreciated to the point of being worthless have ended their lives rather ignobly in the past as toilet paper, wallpaper. . ."

One reason people don't always trust bank notes is because the notes may not necessarily be worth the paper they were printed on. Bank notes that have depreciated to the point of being worthless have ended their lives rather ignobly in the past as toilet paper, wallpaper or some other less than dignified way.

Zimbabwe has recently experienced what is likely the worst inflation in world economic history. What do you do with a bank note which has little or no purchasing power, but has a denomination that includes nine zeroes or more as part of the numeral?

Wilf Mbanga, a Zimbabwe citizen living in the United Kingdom because he has been branded an "enemy of the people" by the Zimbabwe government of Robert Mugabe, has the answer. He uses the worthless Zimbabwe paper bank notes to make posters and billboard advertisements for his newspaper The Zimbabwean, winning the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival award for outdoor advertising as well as a gold lion in the media category for his innovative efforts.

The ads are the product of the South African agency TBWA/Hunt/Lascaris/Johannesburg, which has termed the advertising campaign as one of the most "eloquent symbols" of the economic state in which Zimbabwe finds itself. The poster campaign includes the slogans "Thanks to Mugabe this money is wallpaper," "Z$250,000,000 cannot buy the paper to print this poster on," "It's cheaper to print this on money than on paper," and "Fight the regime that has crippled a country." Mbanga's newspaper carries the banner "A voice for the voiceless."

Mbanga writes the "Comment is Free" blog at The Guardian newspaper's web site in addition to publishing his own Zimbabwean newspaper. His target audience is not people living in Zimbabwe, since his newspaper has to pay a 55 percent luxury tax in order to be imported, but to Zimbabwe citizens living in Great Britain or in southern Africa (specifically in South Africa and Botswana). In this way, the newspaper is subsidized when it is imported into Zimbabwe.

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