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S.Leone slashes ‘zeros of shame’ from banknotes

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Bundles of old leone banknotes, which are being phased out by the revaluation scheme
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Sierra Leone on Friday introduced a new family of banknotes, stripping three zeros off the leone, in a bid to restore confidence in the inflation-hit national currency.

The Bank of Sierra Leone announced the move last August, insisting the public’s purchasing power would not be affected by the change.

“We have removed three zeros from our banknotes but the money yesterday is the same value as today,” President Julius Maada Bio said at ceremonies at the central bank where the new bills were unveiled.

A note of 10 new leones is the equivalent of a note of 10,000 old leones, which changes hands for around 75 US cents.

Year-on-year inflation in the West African state was 24.87 percent in May, according to the national statistics agency.

Rising prices had driven the printing of banknotes, resulting in a mountain of paper money that is costly to sustain and unwieldly for the public.

Shoppers need huge quantities of banknotes for the simplest transactions, and unscrupulous bank tellers sometimes pilfer notes from sealed bundles of bills.

“We are removing the ‘zeros of shame’ to get the currency properly aligned,” Morlai Bangura, a central bank director, told AFP earlier in the week.

He said the bank had begun distributing the new paper notes to commercial banks last week.

On Friday, customers braving the rain queued at commercial banks to swap their old banknotes for new ones.

“The changing of our currency is necessary — we were used to carrying bags to the bank to withdraw our money, but not anymore,” Alice Frazer, 70, said after exchanging her notes at the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank, a state-owned bank in central Freetown.

The new banknotes have a similar design to the old ones but are smaller in size.

“Our current currency is too big to fit into a wallet and we spend too much money printing oversized banknotes,” Kelfala Murana Kallon, the central bank governor, told reporters last August as he announced the move.

The central bank declined to comment on the cost of the operation.

Sierra Leone’s eight million people live in one of the poorest nations in the world, ranking 182 out of 189 countries in the UN’s Human Development Index.

Its economy, heavily dependent on minerals, was devastated by a civil war that ran from 1991-2002 and left about 120,000 dead.

Efforts at rebuilding were set back by an Ebola epidemic in 2014-2016, a fall in world commodity prices and the coronavirus epidemic — all of which have disrupted trade and investment and hit exports.

Sierra Leoneans will be able to use both the old and new notes during a transition period until September 30. 

From October 1, the old currency will cease to be legal tender.

The public will be able to swap the old currency for the new one until November 15, Kallon said in a statement.

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Uber courts drivers by letting them pick rides

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Uber drivers in the United States who had to accept ride requests before learning where they were headed will soon be seeing details of trips being sought along with the fares
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Uber on Friday said it will let drivers in the United States see trip details before deciding whether to accept them — a new feature long sought by drivers.

A common lament by drivers at the app-summoned ride platform has been that they have to accept a request before learning where trips will take them, or how profitable they will be.

“Our new trip request screen makes it easier for drivers to decide if a trip is worth their time and effort by providing all the details — including exactly how much they’ll earn and where they’re going — upfront,” chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said in a blog post.

Revealing details only once a driver had accepted a trip was seen as a way to ensure riders would get picked up promptly, and not be snubbed because they were headed to locations deemed undesirable by drivers.

But Khosrowshahi said drivers have made it clear that they want more flexibility and choice.

Uber said the new feature, called Upfront Fares, was tested in several cities and was a success with drivers while resulting in shorter wait times for passengers.

The ride-sharing firm will also shift from sending drivers a single ride request at a time, to letting them pick from a list of detailed passenger requests in an area.

Uber is engaged in a long-term effort to prove that its business model is socially and economy viable.

The “gig economy” — which uses temporary independent contractors for short-term tasks — has grown rapidly since Uber’s launch in 2009 and is promoted as a flexible way for people to earn money without the constraints of a full-time job.

But there has been growing backlash in countries around the world about the conditions and dangers gig workers face.

Uber driver ranks — which shrank during the Covid-19 pandemic — have not rebounded as quickly as demand for rides, and soaring fuel costs have made the gigs less attractive.

The firm in March announced a surcharge on both rides and Uber Eats meal deliveries that would go directly to drivers to help offset high fuel prices.

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Elon Musk fires back at Twitter in court battle

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Court rules require Elon Musk to provide a public version of his 'confidential' counter claims against Twitter as the court battle over holding him to the terms of the $44 bn buyout deal heads for trial in October.
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Elon Musk on Friday filed claims against Twitter as he fights back against the tech firm’s lawsuit demanding he be held to his $44 billion buyout deal.

Musk’s counter-suit was submitted along with a legal defense against Twitter’s claim that the billionaire is contractually bound to complete the deal he inked in April to buy Twitter, the Chancery Court in the state of Delaware said in a notice.

The 164-page filing was submitted as being “confidential,” meaning the documents were not accessible by the public, the notice indicated.

Rules of the court, however, require Musk to submit a public version of the filing with trade secrets or other sensitive information redacted.

A judge has ordered a five-day trial over Twitter’s lawsuit against Musk to begin on October 17.

The Tesla boss wooed Twitter’s board with a $54.20 per-share offer, but then in July announced he was “terminating” their agreement on accusations the firm misled him regarding its tally of fake and spam accounts.

Twitter, whose stock price closed at $41.61 on Friday, has stuck by its estimates regarding accounts run by software “bots” rather than people, and argued that Musk is contriving excuses to back out of the contract.

The social media platform has urged shareholders to endorse the deal, setting a vote on the merger for September 13.

“We are committed to closing the merger on the price and terms agreed upon with Mr. Musk,” Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal and board chairman Bret Taylor said in a copy of a letter to investors.

Billions of dollars are at stake, but so is the future of Twitter, which Musk has said should allow any legal speech — an absolutist position that has sparked fears the network could be used to incite violence.

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Musk, Twitter get Oct. 17 trial in buyout fight

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Twitter is due to face off with Tesla boss Elon Musk on October 17 in the US state of Delaware in a buyout trial
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Twitter’s lawsuit to force Elon Musk to complete his $44 billion buyout bid is set to go to trial on October 17, a US judge has ordered, in a case with major stakes for both sides.

The trial is due to open in a court in the eastern state of Delaware and is set to last five days to decide whether Musk can walk away from the deal.

The Tesla boss wooed Twitter’s board with a $54.20 per-share offer, but then in July announced he was “terminating” their agreement on accusations the firm misled him regarding its tally of fake and spam accounts.

Twitter has countered by saying Musk already agreed to the deal and can’t back out now.

An order from the judge handling the case, Kathaleen McCormick, lays out an expedited schedule to resolve a fight that has left Twitter in limbo.

She reminds both sides that they “shall cooperate in good faith” on matters like handing over information to each other, a key topic that can result in delays. 

Billions of dollars are at stake, but so is the future of Twitter, which Musk has said should allow any legal speech — an absolutist position that has sparked fears the network could be used to incite violence.

Twitter blamed disappointing results last week on “headwinds,” including the uncertainty imposed on the company by Musk’s chaotic buyout bid.

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