Several decades after their independence, Guinea, Ethiopia, Rwanda and 14 other African countries continue to have their banknotes printed in the United Kingdom, while others use Germany. However, the vast majority of the populations of these countries are unaware that their currency is made abroad, unlike those of the CFA countries, which are much better informed on the subject.
17 African countries import their currency from the United Kingdom
According to the available data, given a certain lack of communication in this area, both by States and manufacturers, 17 African countries are listed as having their banknotes printed in the United Kingdom, and more specifically in England. In alphabetical order, they are: Angola, Botswana, Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Lesotho, Libya, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Uganda (who also has their tickets printed in two other countries).
These countries all have the common thread of importing their currency from the British company De La Rue, which also manufactures most of the currency of the United Kingdom and is one of the world leaders in the field. They are mainly divided between former British and Portuguese colonies, to which are added Guinea, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Libya (which also appeals to Russia). In terms of the production process, it should be noted that in 2019, a site in Nairobi was recently opened as part of a joint venture with the Kenyan government to provide part of the currency manufacturing.
In addition, there is the special case of Somaliland, which covers the northwest of Somalia and has declared its independence. Although not recognized by almost the entire international community, it nevertheless created its own currency to distinguish itself from Somalia, and had it manufactured by the United Kingdom, which used to administer the territory. (unlike the rest of Somalia, which was an Italian colony).
The use of an external entity may surprise some of these countries, such as Ethiopia and Tanzania, which have a large population, or Guinea and Rwanda, given certain political discourse. But perhaps the most surprising case is that of Libya, in view of its very large financial capacities, far superior to those of the few African countries which manufacture their own national currency, like Morocco, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Libya being a major oil producer, of which it has the largest reserves of the continent). In fact, this seems to demonstrate once again the lack of sincerity of the former Gaddafi regime when it presented itself as the champion of Pan-Africanism and the independence of the African people. A posture that was therefore rather part of a communication strategy organized by the regime, which had not really tried to develop the country and ensure its sovereignty (hydrocarbons represent around 95% of exports), and which had even often sown trouble in Africa (attempted invasion of Chad, destabilization of Tunisia…). And this, probably in order to secure the sympathy and support of African public opinion, in order to obtain the lifting of international sanctions and to guarantee the continuation of an undivided reign that had already lasted 41 years at the time of the uprising of the Libyan people, and making Gaddafi the longest-standing leader in post-colonial Africa. A communication strategy that continues to have some effectiveness today…
At least six African countries import their currency from Germany
In addition to the countries mentioned above, five others are listed as having their banknotes printed in Germany, plus Tanzania, which also uses the United Kingdom (as well as the United States). These six countries, calling on Germany, are Eritrea, Mauritania, South Sudan, Eswatini, Tanzania and Zambia. The latter also prints part of its currency in France.
However, the very partial data transmitted by the German banknote manufacturer Giesecke+Devrient (G+D), which does not detail the central bank customers around the world (and what is added to the opacity maintained by many states themselves), suggests that other African countries are also using, at least on an ad hoc basis, Germany to manufacture their national currency (perhaps Ethiopia, which had in the past publicized the signing of a contract in 2008).
43 African countries import their currency from abroad
Taking into account the currencies manufactured in countries other than the United Kingdom and Germany, and apart from the special cases of Somalia and Zimbabwe, which are bankrupt and without real money, 43 African countries in total have recourse to a foreign country, 21 countries more than those previously mentioned. According to the available information, 20 of these other countries use France (which also prints part of the currency of Zambia, already mentioned), while one of them uses the United States, in this case Liberia, which had been created from 1821 by the American Colonization Society (and which adds – at least – to Tanzania, whose currency they partially manufacture).
Thus, and according to the available data, France prints the currency of 21 African countries in total, namely that of 16 of its former colonies (12 countries of the CFA zone, the Comoros, Madagascar, Djibouti and Tunisia), to which are added Guinea-Bissau and Equatorial Guinea (members of the CFA zone, and respectively former Portuguese and Spanish colony), Burundi (former Belgian colony), and finally Namibia and Zambia, two former British colonies. The manufacturing process is carried out by the Bank of France for 17 of these countries, while four others use the private company Oberthur Fiduciaire, one of the three world leaders in the manufacture of banknotes, with the British De La Rue and the German Giesecke & Devrient. But again, the actual number of countries using, at least on an ad hoc basis, the services of this French company is probably higher.
Nine African countries produce their own national currency
Apart from these 43 countries outsourcing the manufacture of their national currency to a foreign entity, nine African countries are therefore themselves responsible for this process, namely Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Ghana, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya and South Africa. However, and although this has nothing to do with the local character of the manufacture of money, it should be recalled, in order to counter a certain propaganda, that five of these nine countries suffer from a strong dollarization of their economy (Sudan, Ghana, Nigeria, the DRC and Kenya), that is to say a significant use of the dollar in internal economic transactions, by refusal of the local currency, considered risky. The case of Nigeria illustrates the main reason for this situation, with a currency having lost nearly 60% of its value against the dollar since 2014, and more than 99% of its value since its creation in 1973 (when the pound sterling was worth 2 naira, compared to 527 on 1 April 2021).
However, the existence of a number of African countries making their own national currency, and despite the serious financial difficulties encountered by some of them (Like Sudan, whose Book has just been devalued by 85% in February, and which is now one of the five poorest countries in Africa and the most indebted country on the continent), proves that other countries could also assume this task. And this is even more true for those with the advantage of being part of a regional group with a single currency and a sufficiently large population, namely the countries belonging to the UEMOA and the CEMAC, the two most integrated groups, and from afar, from the continent (and which demonstrate, incidentally, that pan-Africanism is above all a francophone reality).
Explanation: In an article published in December 2020 (https://www.bbc.com/afrique/region-55413027), the BBC gave the floor to Kemi Seba who affirmed that it was not normal for the countries of the CFA zone to continue to make their currency on the territory of their former colonial power. While this view is respectable, it is unfortunate, however, that the BBC made no mention, either live during the interview or in the text of the article, of the fact that the United Kingdom also produces the currency of many African countries.
Another unfortunate element: in this same article, a Senegalese guest states (among other things inaccurate) that his country, which would be badly managed because of the CFA franc, is the second most indebted country of ECOWAS, after Cape Verde. However, not only is the truth different, but it is also important to know that Senegal has not even been one of the four most indebted countries of ECOWAS for a long time… and that there are now even no French-speaking countries among the five most indebted countries in this set (IMF semi-annual data on public debt).
It is therefore deplorable to note that the BBC, which claims to be one of the world’s leading sources of information, is also regularly broadcasting erroneous or incomplete information. In this post-Brexit period, marked by a growing UK interest in Africa, let us hope that the BBC does not follow in the footsteps of the Turkish-funded media, which excel in this area….
Ilyes Zouari – President of CERMF (Centre d’étude et de réflexion sur le Monde francophone) – ww.cermf.org – Source: firstname.lastname@example.org