In 1661, Stockholms Banco, the precursor to the Swedish central bank, issued Europe’s first banknotes, on thick watermarked paper bearing the bank’s seal and eight handwritten signatures.
Last year – as Britain did last week – Sweden launched a new series of notes, cheery affairs featuring 20th-century Swedish cultural giants such as Astrid Lindgren, the creator of Pippi Longstocking, Greta Garbo and filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. But like its Nordic neighbours Norway, Denmark and Finland, Sweden is fast becoming an almost entirely cashless society.
“I don’t use cash any more, for anything,” said Louise Henriksson, 26, a teaching assistant. “You just don’t need it. Shops don’t want it; lots of banks don’t even have it. Even for a candy bar or a paper, you use a card or phone.”
Swedish buses have not taken cash for years, it is impossible to buy a ticket on the Stockholm metro with cash, retailers are legally entitled to refuse coins and notes, and street vendors – and even churches – increasingly prefer card or phone payments.
According to central bank the Riksbank, cash transactions made up barely 2% of the value of all payments made in Sweden last year – a figure some see dropping to 0.5% by 2020. In shops, cash is now used for barely 20% of transactions, half the number five years ago, and way below the global average of 75%.
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African designers are fighting tooth and nail to remain at the top of changing trends; this was clearly demonstrated at the Africa Fashion Experience held in Soweto recently.
The event was a joint collaboration between the Department of Arts and Culture and the African Fashion Vibe. It was the second edition of Africa Month 2016 Celebration in Soweto, Gauteng.
Some of the designers who attended the showcase came from Zambia, Botswana, Malawi, Angola and Nigeria. Continue reading
Hours earlier, the 64-year old put on her face mask, fins and wetsuit, took a deep breath and propelled herself into the depths in search of lunch.
She is one of a dwindling number of ama – female divers who eschew breathing apparatus as they scour the seabed up to ten metres down for shellfish, seaweed and the occasional octopus and lobster.
With their way of life under pressure from falling seafood stocks and waning interest among younger women, Nakamura and her fellow divers are hoping that this week’s G7 summit in nearby Ise-Shima will boost the campaign to prevent their profession becoming a cultural relic.
Akie Abe, the wife of Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe, is hoping to take leaders’ spouses to watch a demonstration by ama divers, whom she has described as the embodiment of “Japanese values”.