Tigray: Ethiopia’s state-owned bank clients face cash withdrawal restrictions

It has been rumored for several weeks now that Ethiopia is living a shortage of cash. The story seems true in Tigray region. Commercial Bank of Ethiopia clients claim cash withdrawal restrictions.

Ethiopia _ Tigray _ Commercial Bank of Ethiopia
Photo credit : BBC Amharic

January 31, 2020

Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) clients said on Friday that they are unable to withdraw enough cash from branches in the Tigray region.

According to BBC Amharic service, clients can not withdraw more than 2000 Ethiopian birr in most branches in the region.  

A young lady who went to Seloda Adiabun branch in Adwa town was not allowed to withdraw more than 2000 birr, as reported by BBC Amharic.

Other branches in the same town allowed only up to 5000 birr cash.

Public servants in the region who gets their pay via Commercial Bank of Ethiopia say they did not get their payment. They will have to wait, they say. And it is unclear how long they have to wait.

Branches in Mekelle, the biggest city in the region, are living cash shortages too. BBC reporter said he saw long lines in banks and people who look angry as they could not get the amount of cash they needed to withdraw.

CBE employee who works in one of the branches in Mekelle spoke to the BBC on the condition of anonymity.  He said the Bank has got cash shortages. Especially, branches in Tiray do not have cash. That happened, he said, because clients are increasingly withdrawing their money.

Alson Assefa, CBE’s public relations head, reportedly said the Bank is not facing a shortage of cash.

Given the political differences between the Tigray regional state and the Federal Government of Ethiopia, there is a likelihood that the reported cash shortages in the region could be linked to politics.  

Tigray regional state disclosed last week that the difference with the Federal government is widening. The removal of Fetlework Gebreegziabher as the Federal Minister for Trade and Industry sometime last week is interpreted as a political measure. The federal government denied that saying that it has nothing to do with politics but competence.  

It has been a rumor for several weeks now, however, that there is a cash shortage in the country, and that the government might need to print billions of birr.

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