Central Bank of Kenya Governor Patrick Njoroge displays new notes at his office in Nairobi on June 3, 2019. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP The silver coin, originally minted in Austria, was introduced to supplement grain and livestock — then commonly used as the medium of trade.
Cowrie shells, which were also acceptable for the same reasons, were also available close to the coast and prominently featured in the interior.
As Kenyans celebrate Mashujaa Day, one of the major shifts this month has been on the demonetisation of the Sh1,000 currency and the introduction of a new note.
We have taken a long journey since the introduction of the Maria Theresa Thaler by the Arabs trading with East Africa from Muscat in 1832, when the Sultanate of Zanzibar moved to the Indian Ocean islands.
The silver coin, originally minted in Austria, was introduced to supplement grain and livestock — then commonly used as the medium of trade.
But traders used to be frustrated by the lack of currency, which forced the then Sultan of Zanzibar, Seyyid Said, to bring some copper pice (which was a fraction of the Indian rupee) to address the currency shortage. With that the rupee had been introduced into the region, and for many years was likened to the modern-day dollar. From pice the Swahili coined the word pesa.
The silver rupee, as it was known, had been used for many years by the British East India Company, and the exchange rate depended on the quantity of silver in each. Actually, early Indian Ocean commerce between 1600 and 1858 depended on these two silver coins.
But with American independence, East Africa started receiving ships from the US carrying a coarse cloth known as merikani.
This saw the introduction of the US silver dollar in Zanzibar, although it is not clear whether the silver dollar was ever used on the Kenyan coast. What we know is that the exchange rate was based on the weight of the silver coins.
ONE RUPEE The collapse of the British East India Company saw the end of the silver rupee, and that is what led to the 19th Century Queen Victoria One Rupee.Again, this rupee was of great significance in the country and there was booming trade, with a regular monthly steamship service between Zanzibar, Aden and Bombay. India was then a part of the British Empire, hence the text on […]