The Republic of South Africa is the southernmost country in Africa. It is bordered to the north by Nambia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, and to the east by Mozambique and Eswatini, and to the south by the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The country surrounds Lesotho and follows the coastline of Southern Africa.
South Africa was colonized by both the Dutch and the British. Apartheid was institutionalized and by the mid-1980’s South Africa became one of the world’s pariah states. Due to numerous economic and cultural boycotts that followed, apartheid was legally ended in 1994. South Africa has three capitals: the executive capital Pretoria, the legislative capital Cape Town, and the judicial capital Bloemfontein. However, its largest urban area and center of commerce is Johannesburg.
The official currency of South Africa is the South African rand. One rand is equivalent to 100 cents. The rand comes from the name Witwaterstrand, the location of most of South Africa’s gold deposits. Prior to the rand, South Africa used the South African pound, which was equivalent to 20 shillings. The South African Reserve Bank assumes issuing authority. The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) was established in June 1921 and issued its first banknotes in 1922. In June 1924, SARB assumed liability for the notes of other South African banking institutions. The first notes issued by SARB were designed by H.L.G. Pilkington and had a watermark of Jan van Riebeeck. In 1948, the notes featured the correct Afrikaans spelling of “sjielings” for the first time and had new designs: Jan van Riebeeck in front and different vignettes at the back. In 1961, South Africa decimalized its currency and replaced the pound with the rand at a rate of 1:2. In 1966, the 2 rand note was introduced and the South African Bank Note Company became the printer of South African notes. In 1992, a new family of banknotes were introduced. These notes were designed by South African artists and featured the “big five” animals—the rhino, elephant, lion, Cape buffalo, and the leopard—in their native environment on the obverse side and five areas of important economic activity on the reverse side. The 2 and 5 rand notes were replaced by coins and the 100 and 200 rand notes were added. A newly designed family of banknotes were introduced in 2012. These notes featured the portrait of Nelson Mandela in front and the “big five” animals at the back. In 2018, a commemorative series of banknotes were introduced to celebrate the 100th birth anniversary of Nelson “Madiba” Mandela. These notes showcased Madiba’s portrait in front and various scenes with a young Nelson Mandela at the back. This series ran parallel with the 2012 issues. This commemorative series won the “Best New Commemorative Banknote” award at the High Security Printing EMEA Conference in Malta in April 2019.