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Kenyan Currency: Off With Their Heads
By Richard Giedroyc, World Coin News
September 16, 2013

This article was originally printed in World Coin News.
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The political wrangling continues, but it appears Kenya’s new constitution may yet prevail. On Aug. 18 Kenya Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Kimemia announced new coins and bank notes will be issued in 2015. This proposed new currency will finally follow a provision of the 2010 Constitution that forbids depicting any individual on Kenya’s money.

Article 231(4) of the 2010 Constitution mandates that coins and bank notes issued by the central bank may depict symbols of any aspect of Kenya but may not depict any individual’s portrait.

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According to Kimemia, “New currency with our country’s heritage as its key features will be unveiled in the next two years ... Kenyans should expect the new currency in February 2015, and thereafter withdrawal of the current currency which will be done in phases.”

Hopefully this will put an end to egos and political posturing regarding what appears on Kenya’s money. According to Kimemia, new designs are to reflect the spirit of the constitution and the country’s development goals as enshrined in a modernization program called Vision 2030.

Modern independent Kenya issued its first currency in 1966. Coins were initially released in denominations of 5, 10, and 50 cents, and 1 and 2 shillings, with the 25-cent coin being introduced three years later. The 2-shilling denomination coin ceased being issued after 1971. In 1973 a 5 shillings was introduced, followed by a 10 shillings in 1994,and a 20 shillings in 1998.

Bank notes now in circulation are in denominations of 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 shillings.

During mid to late 2011 the Kenya shilling dropped in value from an exchange rate of about 83 shillings to the U.S. dollar to about 100 shillings to the dollar. Kenya’s central bank reacted by tightening liquidity, including increasing interest rates. Money earned from tea exports drove the exchange rate to about 84 shillings to the dollar by January 2012.

All coins and bank notes issued between 1967 and 1978 depict the portrait of Jomo Kenyatta, who was the first president of Kenya. Kenyatta’s portrait was replaced with that of Daniel arap Moi in 1980, however in 2005 Kenyatta’s portrait was restored. Moi was Kenyatta’s successor. Each of these changes was politically motivated.

Mwai Kibaki became president of Kenya in 2002. About that time Kibaki announced he would not allow his image to be placed on Kenya’s currency. A ringed bimetal 40-shillings coin on which President Kibaki is featured was issued the following year to mark the nation’s 40th anniversary of independence.

The Kenyan central bank has called for designs suggestions that will reflect “a new chapter” in Kenya’s history.

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