What is the Currency of Kenya?

By Japhet Rotich on August 1 2017 in Economics

Kenyan shilling banknotes.

The Kenyan Shilling

The official currency in Kenya is the shilling which is subdivided into 100 cents. Its sign and code is KSH and KES respectively. The use of Kenyan shilling commenced in 1966 when it replaced the East African shilling.


In 1966, the first denominations of coins in denominations of 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents, and 1 and 2 shillings were issued for circulation. However, the production of 25 cent coins stopped in 1969. The 5 shilling coins entered circulation in 1973. The image of the first president Jomo Kenyatta was initially inscribed on all coins in Kenya between 1967 and 1978. However, in 1980 after the death of President Jomo Kenyatta, the then president Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi's image was replaced until 2005. In 2005, the Central Bank of Kenya reintroduced the portrait of President Kenyatta.

To mark the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of independence, a 40 shilling coin bearing the image of Mwai Kibaki was circulated in 2003. Additional coins with Kenyatta’s image came into circulation in 2005. After the promulgation of Kenya’s new constitution, section 231(4) stipulated "Notes and coins issued by the Central Bank of Kenya may bear images that depict or symbolise Kenya or an aspect of Kenya but may not bear the portrait of any individual.” However, the news banknotes and coins are yet to enter circulation to heed the requirement of the new constitution.


After the Kenyan shilling took over from the East African shilling at par, the demonetization was not until 1969. The denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 was produced by Central Bank of Kenya. All notes have Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s image and the first prime minister of Kenya on the front face and different types of economic activities in Kenya on the back.

In 1985, the replacement of 5 shilling banknotes took place followed by the 10 and 20 shillings in 1994 and 1998 respectively. The introduction of notes in the denominations of 200 and 500 shillings occurred in 1986 and 1988 respectively followed by the current highest denomination and 1000 shillings in 1994. When President Mwai Kibaki took over from Moi, the 5, 10, and 20 shilling banknotes with Kenyatta’s image that had been kept unused were reintroduced for circulation. Later, the denominations of 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000 shillings entered the market carrying President Kenyatta portrait. De La Rue, an England company situated in Kenya, prints the banknotes.

Exchange Rates

The Kenyan shilling exchange rate has frequently varied and in mid-2011, it traded with 83 shillings to one US dollar to approximately 100 Ksh to one US dollar late part of the year 2011. However, the rate improved to 84 shillings for every US dollar on January 31, 2012, due to anticipated inflows as a result of the exportation of tea. As of 2017, the Kenyan shilling exchanges with Euro (EUR) at 1 EUR=116.36959 KES and with US dollar (USD) at 1 USD=103.688 KES.

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