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Kenya Currency Spotlight

In Business and Currency by Continental StaffLeave a Comment

The history of the Kenyan shilling takes you from colonial Africa through insurgency, independence, and into the country’s transition to becoming East Africa’s most modern economy.

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FAST FACTS: Kenyan Shilling

  • Symbols: KSh, /=, /-, K
  • Currency Code: KES
  • Coins: 50 cents (rare), 1, 5, 10, 20, 40 shillings
  • Notes: 10, 20 shillings (rare), 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000 shillings
  • Kenya Inflation: 3.2%
  • Kenya Nominal GDP: $69.1 billion (2016)
  • Central Bank: Central Bank of Kenya

History

The area that we now know as Kenya was once part of British East Africa which also included Uganda and Tanganyika. As such the country used British currency. First the British introduced the rupee, the colonial currency of India and many other British holdings. The rupee was then replaced by the East African florin in 1920, which only lasted a year before being replaced by the East African shilling. The British pound, before it was decimalised (that is, broken into 100 subunits) was divided into 20 shillings. In British East Africa the smaller shilling became the de facto currency of use – rather than the larger, more expensive pound.

Kenyan independence occurred on December 12, 1963, and the Republic of Kenya was proclaimed in 1964. However the East African shilling remained the newly formed country’s currency. It wasn’t until 1966 that the Kenyan shilling replaced the East African shilling at a rate of 1 to 1 in 1966.

A second East African currency was proposed as a common currency for the East African Community which includes Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan.

Notes

1996 Issue
Value Obverse Reverse
20 shillings President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi (President from 1978 to 2002); Coat of Arms of Kenya Baton; Moi International Sports Complex; Nairobi; jogger
50 shillings President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi (President from 1978 to 2002); Coat of Arms of Kenya Caravan; monument in Mombasa
100 shillings President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi (President from 1978 to 2002); Coat of Arms of Kenya Monument to the 25th anniversary of independence, Nairobi
200 shillings President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi (President from 1978 to 2002); Coat of Arms of Kenya Unity monument, Nairobi
500 shillings President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi (President from 1978 to 2002); Coat of Arms of Kenya Parliament building, Nairobi
2004 Series
Value Obverse Reverse
50 shillings President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta; Coat of Arms of Kenya Caravan, Monument in Mombasa
100 shillings President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta; Coat of Arms of Kenya Kenyatta statue; tower
200 shillings President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta; Coat of Arms of Kenya Cotton harvest
500 shillings President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta; Coat of Arms of Kenya Parliament building, Nairobi
1000 shillings President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta; Coat of Arms of Kenya Elephants

Value

In mid 2011 the value of the Kenyan shilling fell from 83 shillings per USD to 100 shillings per USD. By September 2015 it fell further to 105 KES per 1 USD, but recovered slightly by December of 2016 to 102.1 KES per USD. The KES has stayed between 100 and 105 KES per USD since July 2015.

USD us dollar kenya kenyan shilling

KES to 1 USD over the past 5 years (courtesy of Rate Watch)

CAD canadian dollar kenya kenyan shilling

KES to 1 CAD over the past 5 years (courtesy of Rate Watch)

Economy of Kenya

Kenya is the 72nd largest economy in the world, but per capita GDP is just $1,587 and unemployment is at 38% as of 2015. Corruption wracked the country until serious reforms were enacted in 1993 and further action taken in 1997. Despite this, growth is expected to reach 5%, and the country is seen as business friendly, with high English and computer literacy. Kenya is East and Central Africa’s financial communication and transportation hub. Tourism is an important industry, along with agriculture, consumer goods, textiles, and other industry.

kenyan shilling money coins notes cash banknotes

Bottom line

The Kenyan shilling has bounced around the 100 KES per USD mark since late 2015, and will likely remain in that area as the USD continues to strengthen. If Kenya can stave off regional insecurity and continue to liberalise its economy, stifle corruption and take advantage of its tourist attractions, the country and the KES will be in a favourable position in the future.


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