What Is the Currency of Sierra Leone?

By Andrew Mwaniki on September 4 2017 in Economics

Sierra Leonean leone banknotes.

Sierra Leone is a West African country located on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The country's population was estimated to be 7.3 million in 2016. Freetown is Sierra Leone's largest and capital city. The nation’s capital commemorates the history of the people of Sierra Leone, where most returning slaves in the 18th and 19th centuries found refuge. Today, the country is a popular tourist destination, with many points of interests such as beautiful white sandy beaches off the coast. The official language of Sierra Leone is English and the country's currency is Sierra Leonean leone.

History of the Sierra Leonean Leone

Sierra Leone’s official currency is the leone. The currency uses the code SLL, is abbreviated as Le, and is subdivided into 100 cents. The leone was created in 1964 after the abandonment of the British West African pound. The transition to the leone enabled the people of Sierra Leone to have their own currency. At the time of its introduction, 1 British West African pound was equal to 2 leones. The leone was also equivalent to 10 shillings.


The first leone coins were introduced in 1964 in denominations of 20, 10, 5, 1 and ½ cents. The design and composition was strongly influenced by the colonial state currency of British West Africa. These early coins included the portrait of the first president of Sierra Leone. The 50 cent coin was introduced in 1972 and included a similar design to the first coins, but included a portrait of Sierra Leone's second president.

Since 1974, various coins have been introduced inspired mostly by the changing face of leadership and government. These include cupro-nickel coins, such as the seven-sided one leone coin which was introduced in 1976 to commemorate FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization). Octagonal nickel-bronze one leone coins were also introduced in 1980. However, the latter coin was less popular than lower denominations coins and circulated less frequently. The one leone coin was engraved with a bust portrait of General Joseph Saidu. To boost its circulation, it replaced the one leone note.


The Bank of Sierra Leone introduced a series of banknotes, including the 1, 2 and 5 leone, to officially replace the British West African pound. The notes remained relatively stable during economic upheavals. Other banknotes such as the 100 (1988), 500 (1991), 1,000 and 5,000 (1993), 2,000 (2000) and 10,000 leones (2004) have since been introduced.

Inflation and the Civil war

The civil war in Sierra Leone, which lasted from 1991-2002, caused a period of rampant inflation and total economic collapse. During this period, older coins were effectively devalued, which led to the introduction of new coin denominations. In 1996, coins of 10, 50 and 100 leones were introduced. These coins were made from nickel-plated steel, and included portraits and symbols of the most influential figures in the country's political history. The 50 leones coin was octagonal, while the 10 and 100 leones coins were round. In 2004, after the civil war, a bimetallic and ten-sided 500 leones coin was introduced to counter the devaluing lower denominations coins.

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