Rwanda is a small land-locked country located south of the equator in the Great Rift Valley in Africa. It is often referred to as the “land of a thousand hills” due to its high elevation and its geography littered with mountains to the west, savannahs to the east, and lakes in between. It is surrounded by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rwanda is one of the most densely populated mainland African country, with its capital, Kigali, housing around a million people.

Map of Rwanda
Source: Britannica

Rwanda was once dominated by East Germany then Belgium. Rising tensions between two dominant ethnic groups, the Tutsi and the Hutu, characterized Rwanda’s history and political landscape, especially from 1962 (Rwanda’s independence from Belgium) to 1994 (the great genocide of 1994). The Rwandan Patriotic Front currently leads the political scene of Rwanda.

First Banknotes In Rwanda

Rwanda uses the Rwandan franc as its currency. When Belgium occupied Rwanda, the Belgian Congo franc replaced the East African rupie. Rwanda used the Belgian Congo until 1960, when it was replaced by the Rwanda and Burundi franc. Two years after Rwanda gained its independence from Belgium, it began issuing its own francs in 1964.

Rwanda 100 Francs | 1960 | P-3a |
Source: Banknote World Educational

Provisional notes were issued for easy transition from the Rwanda and Burundi franc to the Rwandan franc. Old Rwanda and Burundi franc notes were either hand-stamped or embossed with the new issuing authority’s name and bank governor’s signature.

The first series of Rwandan franc notes circulated from 1964 to 1976. These notes featured either the flag, the map, or the national arms in front and various vignettes of people and economic activities at the back.

Rwanda 500 Francs | 1974 | P-11 |
Source: Banknote World Educational

Evolution of Notes

In 1974, a new design for the 500 franc note was introduced. Instead of the national arms, a portrait of Juvenal Habyarimana, the 3rd Rwandan President, in his military uniform was featured. The back still featured a man carrying his harvest from the field in the background in his woven basket. The note did not have a watermark. However, it had a solid security thread. It was printed by De La Rue in dimensions of 155 mm x 70 mm. The assassination of Juvenal Habyarimana in 1994 sparked the Rwandan Genocide.

In 1977, the 20 and 50 franc notes were replaced by coins. New designs for the 100 francs, 500 francs, 1,000 francs, and 5,000 francs were introduced a year later in 1978. These notes featured different animals and agricultural vignettes in front and cultural and geographical scenes at the back. These notes were also more colorful than the previous series.

Rwanda 1,000 Francs | 1988 | P-21a.1 |
Source: Banknote World Educational

In 1988, the Rwandan franc was renamed in the Kinyarwanda language. The franc was renamed from Amafranga to Amafaranga. This change was reflected in the banknotes which had the same design as the 1978 series.

Giesecke & Devrient took over the printing of Rwandan notes in 1994. The G&D printed notes featured a view of mountains and forests in front and different animals in their natural habitats at the back. They all had solid security threads, impala head watermarks, and dimensions of 130 mm x 74 mm.

A newly designed series of notes were issued in 1998. The font used for printing became narrower, and different cultural, agricultural, and natural vignettes were used.

Rwanda 5,000 Francs | 2004 | P-33 |
Source: Banknote World Educational

Modern Times

In 2003, a new family of notes were introduced. These notes have the bank name in Kinyarwanda and French, and added the English name. They also had updated security features like windowed security threads, holographic stripes, and added electrotype BNR watermarks. Four years later, the Kinyarwanda name of the bank was changed to “Banki Nkuru Y’U Rwanda”. The bank also replaced the 100 franc note with a coin and revoked the notes’ legal tender status.

A new Rwanda 500 franc note design was revealed in 2013. It was blue and gray. The note featured cows in front to reflect the government’s efforts to eradicate malnutrition. It also featured students on computers at the back to reflect the progress in education and technology. The note had a windowed security thread with demetalized BNR500 text and a watermark design of the Rwandan coat of arms and electrotype BNR. The note measured 135 mm x 72 mm.

Rwanda 1,000 Francs | 2015 | P-39a |
Source: Banknote World Educational

The other notes retained their designs, but removed all French text and updated the security features.

In 2019, a new family of Rwanda notes were issued. These notes had enhanced security features like SPARK features and optically variable security threads added. These notes, printed by Giesecke & Devrient, also had better quality to reduce wear and tear.

The 500 franc note was redesigned and its color scheme was changed to brown to distinguish it from the 1,000 franc note. Its front design featured the canopy walk in Nyungwe Forest National Park and its back still featured students on computers. It had a gold-to-green windowed security thread with demetalized BNR 500 and a watermark of the coat of arms and electrotype BNR. The note also measured 135 mm x 72 mm.

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