Two years after the unveiling new currency in December by the Central Bank of Kenya’s, the country seems to have put behind it the appearance of the money that characteristically bore portraits of heads of government and state.
The present currency coins and notes unveiled on December 10, 2018 bear wildlife and landforms that form the core of the country’s heritage and tourist attraction such as the giraffes, rhinos, lions, elephants, leopards, lakes and mountains.
It is a major departure from the symbol of power and authority that has dominated the Kenyan currency for the past 300 years, since the country adopted the money economy. The new currency contains features that make it detectable by the visually impaired.
The new generation coins are available in denominations of Sh1, Ksh5, Ksh10 and Ksh20. During the launch at Times Towers, the seat of CBK, President Uhuru Kenyatta promised that the new currency would address concerns about excess liquidity in the economy that was driving inflation north.
Questions remain about whether the government achieved its objective following reports that the local currency has slid further down against the hard currency, trading at between Ksh113 and Ksh115 to the dollar and could slump further to Ksh130 to the dollar before the year ends.
According to CBK Governor Patrick Njoroge the coins, which bear a significant aspect of the country is a symbol of unity that serves as a means of passing knowledge, conserving culture and promoting Kenya’s global uniqueness.
Since Kenya adopted the money economy more than three centuries ago, the shape and appearance of the local currency has changed more than 30 times. From barter trade, the currency has moved from cowrie shells, Maria Theresa Thaler, dollar, rupee, pice, annas, pound to the current – the shilling.
The following information on currency history in Kenya was gleaned from the CBK website:
Notes and Coins
Early use of currency in Kenya commenced with the Arab influence who were among the first to use money as we know it today.
In Muscat, the Arabs used a silver coin they called the Maria Theresa Thaler, first minted in Austria in 1741 and remained in use when the Sultanate moved to Zanzibar in 1832.
By the 1860s, sailing ships from the relatively recently independent United States of America started to frequent Zanzibar, bringing not only a coarse cloth (merikani) as a commodity but also using the dollar.
Around the same period, the silver rupee minted by the British East India Company (1600-1858) was increasingly being used along the Indian Ocean coast as the monsoon-dependent dhow trade with India expanded.
The British chartered company, the Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEA), got the concession to trade in the area referred to as Kenya today. They then issued the pice, rupees and annas as the currency of the region.
Penetration of coins and notes only started when construction of the railway commenced in Mombasa in May, 1896, to reach Port Florence – present day Kisumu – in December, 1901.
The use of rupees inland was noted by the different communities, introducing words into their languages for currency. The pice was the common unit of exchange giving rise to the word “pesa”. Inland, various ethnic communities adopted the imported terminologies referring to money.
After the World War I, the East African Protectorate was not left out in trying to cope with the challenges of the post-war, economic environment. Into this confused money market, a decision was made in December, 1919, to replace the Mombasa Currency Board with a London-based East African Currency Board (EACB), which would cater for the existing Protectorates as well as the newly acquired responsibility of providing currency to the Tanganyika Trust Territory.
At the same time, it was considered opportune to change the currency from rupees and cents to a currency convertible to the sterling, thereby severing the link with India and implicitly reducing the economic strength of the Asian community.
The newly established EACB introduced an intermediate currency based on the English florin with the thought that it would ease the transformation from rupee to shilling. The florin would be the same size and shape as the rupee and also be of silver substrate. This then became the advent of the shilling in Kenya. The shilling was however interchangeably used with the pound at a rate of twenty shillings to the pound.
For the banknotes, the interim currency was commonly known as the “Lake Issue” currency because of the background of Lake Victoria on the notes. The notes all showed a dhow on Lake Victoria which was common territory to the three countries. The Lake Victoria designed notes were in the denominations of 5, 10, 20 and 100 shillings. For the first time, use of Hindi on the notes was dropped and Swahili first featured on these common currencies.
With the establishment of individual central banks for the three East African countries, Kenya began printing and minting its own currency under the mandate given to the CBK in the CBK Act cap 491. Banknotes for the CBK, although not yet issued, were legalised under Legal Notice No.252 of 1966 dated 1st July, 1966.
Coins were issued in April 1967. EACB banknotes ceased to be legal tender in September, 1967 while the EACB coins were demonetised in April 1969.
The initial issue of Kenya shilling notes was in the denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 shillings, all bearing the portrait of the first President of Kenya, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, in the front, and diverse scenes of economic activities in Kenya at the back. These notes were the first using the double title of Banki Kuu ya Kenya and Central Bank of Kenya. On April 10, 1967, new Kenya shilling coins were issued in the denominations of 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, 50 cents and 1 shilling.
In the pre-independence coins gallery, there have been special currencies to commemorate special events in the history of the country. To mark some national and central banking events, the Central Bank of Kenya has and continues to issue special commemorative currencies. These special currencies are limited in number and are specifically printed or minted to celebrate an event or in honour of a person. They form a historical reference point and memento for the country.
• The 1966 set of three gold coins
• 75th anniversary, birth of founding president of Kenya Jomo Kenyatta
• 10 Years of Freedom Single Coin – Brass coin issued to commemorate ten years of independence
• Gold coins 1978 – marking the day Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi was sworn in as second President of the Republic of Kenya
• Silver coins 1978 – marking the day Daniel Toroitich arap Moi was sworn in as second President of the Republic of Kenya
• 20th anniversary of CBK – silver coin commemorating 20 years of the Central Bank of Kenya
• 10 Years of Nyayo Era – silver coin marking 10 years of leadership by Kenya’s second President, Daniel Toroitich arap Moi
• 25 Years of CBK – Silver Coin commemorating 25 years of the Central Bank of Kenya
• 40 Years of Independence gold coin 5000 shillings – celebration of Kenya’s 40 years of independence in the year 2003
• 40 years of Independence Coin and Note – celebration of Kenya’s 40 years of independence in the year 2003
• 40 years of Independence 40 Shilling – This circulating coin was also issued to commemorate 40 years of independence
• 50 Years Gold Commemorative Coin – Celebration of 50 years of Kenya’s independence
• 50 Years Gold Plated Silver Commemorative Coin – Celebration of 50 years of Kenya’s independence
• 50 years Acrylic Block Commemorative
- A Tell report