Mozambique to check credit card use overseas

Mozambique central bank to stem flow of foreign-exchange.

Holders of debit and credit cards issued by banks operating in Mozambique will be limited to a maximum of 700,000 meticais ($13,600) per year on payments abroad, in an effort to curb capital flight and revive the country's ailing economy, according to a statement issued by the nation's central bank.

The “exceptional” measures, which take effect from 1 January 2016, come as the economy is under pressure from a significant outflow of foreign-exchange, through the "unrestrained" use of credit and debit cards abroad, according to the central bank governor Ernesto Gove.

Figures published by the Mozambique News Agency (AIM) showed that in 2012 the use of bank cards abroad drained the country of around $300 million annually, but three years later the figure is now $800 million.

The governor said the cap was necessary to reduce the large amounts of money leaving Mozambique, putting a strain on the domestic economy – under increased pressure because of falling commodity prices worldwide – and depreciating the value of the metical. The move comes after two recent hikes in interest rates failed to stop the metical's descent, making Mozambique the second-worst performing African country this year, after Zambia, according to financial news and media company Bloomberg.

Gove said the new measures would help to stabilise Mozambique's currency, adding that credit and debit cards should only be used abroad for expenses relating to holidays, health and education, but not for commercial imports.

Separately, the central bank issued a statement on its website denying earlier media "rumours" about the automatic conversion of Mozambican bank accounts from dollars to meticais when used for transactions.