Western African Currency: 10,000 Bill, Not a Whole Lot!

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You’ve seen what a stack of cash in Guinea looks like. But what about the daily currency in Dakar Senegal?

Senegal uses CFA francs, a currency used in both western and central Africa, though West Africa CFA and Central Africa CFA are technically two different monetary systems.

We obviously use West Africa CFA, as do other countries in the region, including Mali, Burkino Faso, Niger, Togo and others. The CFA used to stand for a French term about African colonies, but since all the colonies have now achieved full independence, CFA now means Communauté Financière Africaine (African Financial Community).

Pictured here are the 1,000 and 10,000 denominations, two common bills.

The 10,000 bill is the most expensive bill that is commonly used and small bills sometimes seem to be in short supply; a taxi driver or another small vendor often can’t make change from 10,000 CFA.

We always use our 10,000s at the big grocery store and get change so that we have small bills on hand – although for whatever reason, the cashier is sometimes reluctant to give us those littler bills.

Apparently they’re precious commodities for everyone!

Amounts less than 1,000 CFA are in coins. Here’s a 100-CFA piece:

The exchange rate is about 480 CFA per one U.S. dollar. Figuring out an approximate conversion is pretty easy: simply double the first number of the CFA price to get a guesstimate of the USD value. If something is 1,000 CFA, that’s about $2 USD. If it’s 4,000 CFA, that’s around $8 USD; 10,000 CFA is about $20 USD.

Like most paper money, CFAs are designed with images and symbols that mean various things. I can’t figure out, though, why there is a random “@” on the 10,000 bill. A symbol of West Africa’s modernization? In any case, its randomness is kind of humorous:

Rachael Cullins
Rachael Cullins is a twentysomething American girl living in Dakar, Senegal, with her husband and two dogs. She blogs about her adventures in Senegal and travels elsewhere in West Africa. She will reside in Dakar until summer 2013, when she and her family will move to another foreign post as part of her husband's career with the U.S. government. In addition to West Africa, she has traveled to France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Italy and Costa Rica and plans to continually add to that list.
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