Government Quietly Imposes New Cash Limit on International Travelers

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The Government of Ethiopia has put a new restriction on the foreign currency that travelers may bring into Ethiopia.

Foreign passport holders are now only allowed to bring in foreign currency not exceeding the equivalent of 3,000 dollars and change any higher amount into birr at the airport upon arrival.

On the other hand, the amount of foreign currency Ethiopian passport holders can bring is capped at the equivalent of 1000 dollars, with any exceeding amount being converted into birr.  

Previously international travelers, both foreign and Ethiopian passport holders, were also required to bring foreign currency not exceeding the equivalent of 3,000 dollars. But, when the amount exceeded the 3000 dollar threshold, they were only required to declare the money and were not forced to turn their currency into the local birr.

However, last week passengers were told it was illegal to bring foreign currency more than the equivalent of 3000 dollars into Ethiopia in cash and were told to exchange their foreign currency into birr at the airport exchange centers.

International travelers, their families, and sources at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport Customs Branch Office confirmed the new cash limit in place to Addis Insight. However, formal inquires at Addis Ababa International Airport were not fruitful.

The new cash limit follows a set of actions taken by the government to sequencing the money demonization announced during the Ethiopian New Year. 

During the new birr unveiling, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (Ph.D.) said that following the currency change regulations and supervisions at commercial banks and at airports would be intensified. 

The government formed a command post that will organize sudden raids on houses and offices and started more vigorous checks in the areas that are known for the parallel market in foreign currency exchange.

Last week, some shops found in areas popularly known for the parallel currency market were closed.

The dollar’s exchange value in the black market has also skyrocketed ever since the new currency changes were introduced, with a single dollar being exchanged for as much as 55 birr.

The new cash limit airport also comes just before the country is about to reopen its tourism destinations.

Before the pandemic hit Ethiopian Airlines, the national carrier, had more than 100 international destinations and 19 domestic routes. Addis Ababa Bole International Airport had also overtaken Dubai to become the largest gateway to Africa last year.

But after the pandemic, the airline stopped flying to about 80 destinations. Addis Ababa Bole International Airport that had been hosting over 30,000 passengers a day, dwindled to less than 50.

The airline is now on a slow recovery pace as it makes an average of 15 domestic flights and 20 international flights in a day.

Amidst the global pandemic that crippled the international aviation and tourism industry, Ethiopian Airlines says it has generated annual revenue of 122.14 billion birr (about 3.3 billion dollars) during the 2019/2020 Ethiopian budget year concluded on July 7, 2020.

It was indicated that the revenue plan set by Ethiopian Airlines Group before the outbreak of the global pandemic – coronavirus was 149.72 billion birr, and the airlines achieved 82 pc of its target.