Since independence, Kenya has undergone a lot of development both economically, socially and politically. Kenya is among the amazing countries in Africa endowed with natural resources and also acts as a tourist attraction country.

Did you know? A second East African currency was proposed as a common currency for the East African Community. 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 Kenyan note has evolved over the years immediately after our independence and here is a clear outline of everything you need to know.

The notes and coins have had images of retired presidents, animals, athletes and buildings in the evolution pattern.

How it started

Before independence, Kenya was once part of British East Africa, which also included Uganda and Tanganyika and for purposes of trade and a measure of wealth, Kenya used British currency. The currency that was introduced by the Britons was the rupee, the colonial currency of India and many other British holdings.

The rupee was replaced by East African florin in 1920, which only lasted a year before being replaced by the East African shilling.

After Independence which occurred on December 12, 1963, African shilling remained the newly formed country’s currency but later on the newly established EACB introduced an intermediate currency based on the English Florin which replaced the East African shilling at a rate of 1 to 1 in 1966.


Kenyatta’s portrait

The initial issue of Kenya shilling notes were 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.

The coins were minted by the Royal Mint of UK and made from cupro-nickel. Like the notes, the obverse featured the portrait of Kenya’s founding father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.

The reverse however featured the Kenyan coat of arms, a theme that has remained a dominant feature to the present series of coins.


Moi’s portrait 

In 1979, a portrait of retired president Daniel Moi replaced Kenyatta’s until 2005, when the Central Bank introduced a new coin series that restored the portrait of Kenyatta.

The coins are 50 cents and Sh 1  in stainless steel and bi-metallic of Sh 5, Sh 10 and Sh 20.

Sh 5 notes were replaced by coins in 1985, with the same happening to Sh 10 and Shh 20 in 1994 and 1998.

In 1986, Sh 200  notes were introduced, followed by sh 500 in 1988 and Sh 1000  in 1994.

The banknotes are printed in Nairobi by British security printer De La Rue.

In 1980, a portrait of Daniel arap Moi replaced Kenyatta until 2005, when the central bank introduced a new coin series that restored the portrait of Kenyatta.

Kenyan notes were redesigned and emblazoned with Moi’s face to usher in his era.

Why Kibaki removed Moi’s face

When Kibaki, won elections in 2002 ending Moi’s 24-year rule, he broke a promise not to have his image printed on money.

A new Sh40 coin bearing a portrait of President Kibaki was launched contradicting his election pledge to keep his image and his name off the currency, public buildings and roads.

Kibaki also launched two commemorative coins – a gold one with a face value of Sh5,000 and a silver one valued at Sh1,000 – both of which bore his likeness.

NAIROBI, KENYA: A commerorative 5,000 shilling gold coin has been minted, 10 December 2003 in Nairobi by President Mwai Kibaki to commemorate 40 years of Kenya’s independence. The Central Bank of Kenya on Wednesday unveiled three new coins bearing the portrait of President Mwai Kibaki and a redesigned banknote, all in commemoration of the east African country’s 40th anniversary of independence from Britain. AFP PHOTO/HAJI HAMISI (Photo credit should read HAJI HAMISI/AFP/Getty Images)

The Sh40 coin went into circulation to mark 40 years of independence. This was a way to celebrate the Independence Day.

Uhuru’s New generation Notes

After removal of Moi’s from the Kenyan currency, Kenya voted in the 2010 constitutional referendum to get rid of individual portraits on the money.

The Constitution of Kenya 2010 states that notes and coins shall not bear the portrait of any individual.

“Notes and coins issued by the CBK may bear images that depict or symbolise Kenya or an aspect of Kenya, but shall not bear the portrait of any individual,” reads Section 231(4) of the Constitution.

Previous coins bore the images of Kenya’s three ex-rulers: Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki.

Many Kenyans saw this as an attempt by their leaders to promote themselves and to personalise the state.

In December 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta and CBK Governor Patrick Njoroge unveiled new generation coins.

And on Madaraka Day this year, the new-look notes are fashioned to enable the visually-impaired to use them, were unveiled.

They are in notes of Sh50, Sh100, Sh200, Sh500 and Sh1,000.

The Sh1 coin will now bears the image of a giraffe, the Sh5 coin a rhino, the Sh10 a lion and the Sh20 coin will spot an elephant.

The coins have also been minted with embossed features that will make them easy to identify.

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