East Africa / 0 Products

The East African Protectorate, also known British East Africa, was the territory in the African Great Lakes that occupied present-day Kenya, from the Indian Ocean inland to the border with Uganda in the west. 

Traditional African communities exchanged goods and wares through barter trade. During market days, livestock, ironware, salt, weapons, beads, cowrie shells, and food were exchanged. 

Arab traders travelling through the interior of East Africa were the first to introduce money as an alternative to salt bars. The money introduced by these travelling traders was an assortment of foreign coins, reflecting the multinational nature of the Indian Ocean trade. There were Indian rupees and annas, pice, bronze coins, British florins, and silver Maria Theresa thalers from Austria. 

When the 1885 Berlin Conference carved up Africa among European powers, Uganda and Kenya were allocated to Britain. The Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEAC) administered to East Africa before it became a formal protectorate. During its administration, the IBEAC issued Mombasa coins. These coins were minted in India and were a mixture of rupees, annas, and pice. 

As more laborers in British India migrated to East Africa to build the Kenya to Uganda railway, the usage of cash and the rupee further increased in popularity. The rupee acquired different local names, including the zirupia or chirupa in Luhya, rupia in Luo, iropiyani in aasai, rubia in Kikuyu, and ropyen or robia in Kalenjin. 

Meanwhile, local coins started being minted in 1906. These included the East Africa Protectorate pice, the East Africa rupee, and the Uganda rupee. 

The denominations that circulated were 1 cent, 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, and 50 cents. The coins often had a hole in the center so that they could be strung together for ease of carrying. 

In 1919, the colonial administration combined the Uganda and Mombasa currency boards to form the East African Currency Board (EACB). It was mandated to manage the currencies in the two protectorates and in Tanganyika. 

The first coins introduced by the EACB were silver florins in 1920. When silver became too expensive during the First World War, the florin coins were phased out and substituted with paper notes. A year later, the florin was replaced by the East African shilling. The 1-shilling coin and 50-cent coin had a silver content of 25%. However, after the Second World War, coins were made of cupronickel and contained no silver. 

When Britain took control over Italian East Africa (Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somaliland) in 1941, they introduced the East African shilling to replace the lira. Six years later, India obtained independence and all new East African currency omitted the phrase ‘king and emperor of India’. 

New coins were produced for each new English monarch. The monarchs featured were Queen Victoria, King Edward VII, King George V, King Edward VIII, King George VI, and Queen Elizabeth II.

When East African countries gained their respective independence, the East African Currency Board was dissolved and replaced by the central banks of the respective countries.

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