Money in Kenya

Kenya began printing and minting its own money in 1966 under the mandate given to the Central Bank of Kenya in the Central Bank of Kenya Act cap 491. 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, H.E. Mzee Jomo Kenyatta in the front, and diverse scenes of economic activities in Kenya at the back. Denominations have progressively changed since then. Current denominations of banknotes and coins in circulation are as follows:- Coins – 5cent, 10 cent, 50 cent, 1 shilling, 5 shilling, 10 shilling, 20 shilling and 40 shilling Notes – 50 shilling, 100 shilling, 200 shilling, 500 shilling and 1,000 shilling.

Currency distribution

To ensure that the Central Bank’s role in currency management is achieved, the Bank has set up offices that primarily deal with currency management matters. To this end, the Bank has its Head Office established in Nairobi and three other Branches in Mombasa, Kisumu and Eldoret. The Bank in conjunction with the Kenya Bankers Association has also come up with the Currency Centres Concept in Kenya, which aims at taking currency services closer to traditionally unreached areas.

The first of these Currency Centres was opened in Nyeri followed by Nakuru and Meru. Other Centres will be opened in due course as the needs dictate.

It is the Bank’s objective to have only good quality currency circulation and this is achieved by setting quality standards for currency in circulation. The current standards were issued on 14th July 2008 under the Amended Banking Circular Number 4 of 2008. These standards predominantly guide commercial banks and other bulk cash handling bodies on how to sort currency.

The Central Bank exchanges mutilated currency for members of public. Mutilated currency notes take various forms e.g. burnt notes, damage of currency by chemicals etc. The currency should meet the following requirements:

  • Not deliberately mutilated
  • Currency must be genuine
  • More than half and continuous
  • Bear at least one complete serial number

Damaged Coins and notes

In case of coins, the inner part of coin for coins with outer bordering rings i.e. 10/=, 20/= and 40/=. The Bank is not obliged to exchange any damaged currency.  Any banknotes and coins presented for exchange will be carefully examined by the Bank. The Bank may seek to know from the presenter of the damaged currency as to how the notes and coins were damaged.

Counterfeit Detection

Counterfeits are a threat to the circulation of genuine Kenyan currency. Security features in currency notes act as a deterrent and safeguard to minimise the risk of counterfeiting. We encourage the public to be aware of the available security features incorporated in genuine currency notes and to be able to distinguish between genuine and fake notes. Each genuine banknote incorporates a number of security features which makes the counterfeiting of the currency notes extremely difficult. The following are public security features to be checked by each member of the public.

  • Portrait Watermark

A three dimensional portrait of a lion’s head can be seen when the note is held up to the light. The watermark has a three dimensional appearance with areas in varying tones of dark and light. Below the watermark is the value numeral of the banknote. This number can be seen when the note is held up to the light. Both the portrait and value numeral depict some brightness when held up to the light.

  • Serial Numbers

The serial numbering style is asymmetrical and has progressively larger digits in adjacent positions. One set of serial numbers appears horizontally, the other vertically. The vertical serial numbers on the left hand side of the banknote glows under UV light

  • See Through Feature

Each of the banknotes has a see through feature which forms a perfect complete elephant when held up to the light. When looked at from one side, the image does not form any recognizable feature unless when looked at up to the light.

  • Security Thread

All genuine banknotes have a distinct interwoven thread running vertically down the right hand side of the notes. When held up to the light, the thread appears as a continuous line and it shows a series of text featuring the denomination numeral of the note and the letters CBK. The current generation of banknotes features two types of threads:-

  • For the 1000 and 500 shillings denominations, the thread is thicker and portrays a colour shift when viewed at angles.
  • The 50, 100 and 200 shilling denominations have a thinner thread silver in colour and do not depict any colour shifts when viewed at angles.

No counterfeit currency will be exchanged for any value whatsoever.

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