The Malagasy ariary, the currency of Madagascar, is one of the world’s less known, and most unique currencies. Along with the Mauritanian ouguiya, the Madagascar ariary is one of only two non-decimal currencies in the world.
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History and Culture | Travel Guide
MALAGASY ARIARY FAST FACTS:
- Symbol: Ar
- Currency Code: MGA
- Subunits: (⅕) iraimbilanja
- Coins: 1, 2 iraimbilanja, Ar1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 20, 50
- Banknotes: Ar100, 200, 500,1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000
- Central Bank: Banque Centrale de Madagascar
- GDP: $10.6 billion
- GDP Growth: 3% (2014)
- Inflation: 8.8%
The term ariary means silver dollar and iraimbilanja is literally translated to “one iron weight.” French francs circulated in Madagascar until the first world war when a shortage necessitated the use of substitutes like postage stamps on pieces of paper worth between 0.05 and 2 francs.
After the war French francs returned but in 1925 the Banque de Madagascar was founded and the Malagasy franc was introduced on par with the French franc. Eventually the Comoros islands (between Madagascar and Africa) became a separate territory. This split resulted in the central bank being renamed the Banque de Madagascar et des Comores and the Malagasy franc becoming the Madagascar-Comores CFA franc in 1945 (along with other Central African francs which are used in French Africa but guaranteed by the French government) which was introduced at a value of 1.7 francs.
A devaluation of the French franc in 1948 meant that 1 CFA = 2 French francs. The introduction of the new French franc in 1960 devalued the CFA to 1 CFA = 0.02 French francs. By 1963 the CFA franc was replaced altogether by the Malagasy franc which was pegged to the French franc at a rate of 1 FRF to 50 MGF. In 1974 Madagascar abandoned the CFA franc zone when the Banque Centrale de Madagascar took over responsibility for issuing banknotes.
From 1961 onwards the Malagasy ariary circulated alongside the Malagasy franc, with one airary worth five Malagasy francs and each ariary split into five iraimbilanja – making the currency only one of two non-decimal currencies in the world. During this time the Malagasy franc remained the official currency while the ariary was semi-official.
The Malagasy franc was eventually floated in 1994, and was ultimately replaced as the official currency by the Malagasy ariary in 2005.
The current series of Malagasy notes were printed in between 1994 and 2004. The 2003-2004 series includes the value of each note in francs in small numbers. All of the notes contain imagery emblematic of Madagascar.
|100 ariary||1994||Girl; zebus (a type of humped cattle originally from South Asia)|
|100 ariary||2004||Ravinala (a type of plant native to the island) and Tsingy (karst formation); Antsiranana Bay|
|200 ariary||1994||Boy, ships, woman, and fishermen|
|200 ariary||2004||Village gate; Aloala (a funerary pole structure used in south-western Madagascar)|
|500 ariary||2004||Artisan; zebus|
|1000 ariary||2004||Endemic animals; Cactus Sisal (a type of agave plant)|
|2000 ariary||2003||Baobabs (an endangered tree native to Madagascar); rice terraces|
|5000 ariary||2003||Dhows (traditional sailing vessels); beach|
|10,000 ariary||2003||Le palais d’argent (a royal palace); road building|
Beginning in the late 1970s fewer and fewer Malagasy ariary coins included their value in francs.
|Value||Name||Value in francs|
|⅕ ariary||Iraimbilanja||1 franc|
|⅖ ariary||Venty sy Kirobo||2 francs|
|1 ariary||Ariary||5 francs|
|2 ariary||Ariary Roa||10 francs|
|4 ariary||Ariary Efatra||20 francs|
|5 ariary||Ariary Dimy||25 francs|
|10 ariary||Ariary Folo||50 francs|
|20 ariary||Roapolo Ariary||100 francs|
|50 ariary||Ariary Dimampolo||250 francs|
The Malagasy franc remained pegged to the French franc at a rate of 50 to 1 until 1984. Throughout the 1980’s and early 1990’s a series of devaluations ultimately resulted in the currency being floated freely in 1994. By 1997 the rate had dropped to 1 FRF to 777 MGF.
At the time of writing (2PM, Apr 12 2017) the Malagasy ariary was worth:
|1 USD||3212.34 MGA|
|1 EUR||3404.60 MGA|
|1 CAD||2414.94 MGA|
|1 GBP||4011.91 MGA|
Madagascar is a developing market economy rich in natural resources and home to burgeoning textile, mining, and tourism industries in addition to a well established agricultural sector. Unemployment sits at a healthy 5.9%.
Madagascar’s biggest economic obstacle is itself. Political crises and bureaucratic red tape have hurt foreign investment and growth. The country currently ranks 167th in the ease-of-doing-business rank.
The bottom line
The Malagasy ariary may have decreased in value against many of the world’s currencies but it has risen from an unofficial currency to one of the most unique official currencies in the world. As long as Madagascar can quell political instability and cut red tape then the country’s economy, and the ariary should be fine – but that is a big ask for a country that has been marred by political violence.
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