The Republic of Gambia is the smallest country within mainland Africa. It is surrounded by Senegal except for its short coastline along the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The Gambia River flows through the center of the Gambia and empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Though the Gambia is small, it is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa. The Gambia shares strong historical ties to Senegal, and the region was called Senegambia. The Gambia became part of the British Empire as a protectorate in 1894; this caused the official separation between Senegal, which was part of the French Empire, and Gambia. Gambia achieved independence in February 1965 as a constitutional monarchy within the Commonwealth with Queen Elizabeth II as the Queen, and later became a republic after a second referendum. It briefly allied with Senegal in the Senegambia Confederation, which lasted from 1982 to 1989. The Gambia left the Commonwealth briefly in 2013, but officially rejoined in 2018.
The Gambia uses the dalasi as the official currency. One delasi is equivalent to 100 butut. The word dalasi is derived from the English “dollar”. Prior to the dalasi the Gambia used the pound as its currency. These Gambian shilling and pound banknotes were printed by Bradbury, Wilkinson & Company and issued by the Gambia Currency Board. These banknotes featured a sailboat on the Gambia River on the obverse side and different agricultural scenes on the reverse side. The Central Bank of the Gambia took over the responsibilities and authority of the Gambia Currency Board, and the dalasi was adopted as the official currency. The portrait of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, the first president of the Gambia, graced all the dalasi banknotes for two decades—from the start of his administration in 1971 until its violent end in 1994. Early dalasi banknotes also featured different economic activities at the back of the notes.
The Central Bank released a commemorative 1-dalasi banknote in 1978 to mark the official opening of its headquarters in Banjul. In 1996, the Central Bank introduced a newly designed upgraded series of banknotes. The “family issue” banknotes bear a portrait of a typical Gambian citizen and an indigenous bird on the front side and significant landmarks at the back. The family issue banknote series design persisted until 2015, when the portraits of the Gambian citizens were replaced by the portrait of President Yahya Jammeh, the lieutenant who led the coup that overthrew the Jawara government. The 200-dalasi banknote was introduced and the 20-dalasi banknote replaced the 25-dalasi banknote in the same year. In 2019, the Central Bank of Gambia introduced a new family of banknotes that only featured indigenous birds on the obverse side and upgraded security details.