Zambian Currency

On January 16, 1968, the Kwacha replaced the Pound as the new Zambian currency. The new notes where called Kwacha and the coins where known as Ngwee. According to one local language the term Kwacha means dawn and Ngwee means bright. The most popular exchange rate is to the US$.

Zambian Currency History

At the time of replacement, 1 pound was the equivalent of 2 Kwacha. And a one Kwacha note of the new currency was divisible into 100 Ngwee. Initially, in exchange terms, the Zambian currency was at par with the Dollar. 

From 1968 onwards, the Zambia currency has under gone a lot of changes along the way. But perhaps the most noticeable change had been the removal of the portrait of the then President Kenneth Kaunda. The notes that were produced after 1992 featured a fish eagle instead of a human portrait. In 2003, polymer notes were issued in Zambia, for the first time in the country’s history and Zambia was the first country to do so in Africa. Polymer banknotes have many security features not available in paper banknotes.

Old Fifty Thousand KwachaOld Fifty Thousand Kwacha
Old Fifty Thousand KwachaOld Fifty Thousand Kwacha

But after undergoing devaluations as a result of high inflationary rates for a prolonged period of time, the Bank of Zambia decided to rebase the Kwacha. The Kwacha had lost its value against major international currencies and smaller notes together with the Ngwee had become worthless and no longer of use. 

The move was seen as plausible at that moment because of the prevailing low Zambian inflation, which had been going at single digits for some time now. And the Kwacha had been wavering at about 5,000 Kwacha to 1 United States Dollar for months.

Rebasing of The Kwacha

Five NgweeFive Ngwee
Ten NgweeTen Ngwee
Fifty NgweeFifty Ngwee
One KwachaOne Kwacha

The bank of Zambia had set 1 January 2013 as the date of rebasing from the old to the new Kwacha. The new Kwacha notes were circulating alongside the old notes for a six-month period starting on January 1, 2013 to June 30, 2013. The new ISO code for the newly rebased Kwacha was ZMW. The rebased Kwacha became legal tender or came into circulation on 1 January 2013. The introduction of the rebased Kwacha was done gradually. 

Two KwachaTwo Kwacha
Five KwachaFive Kwacha
Zambian Ten KwachaTen Kwacha
Twenty KwachaTwenty Kwacha
Zambian Fifty KwachaFifty Kwacha
Zambian One Hundred KwachaOne Hundred Kwacha

The then Zambia’s finance minister Mr Alexander Chikwanda said the changeover or the rebasing of the Kwacha didn’t have any effect on the purchasing power of the currency because the rebasing exercise was just an issue of dividing the Kwacha by 1000, or in other words knocking off three zeros. 

Although the launch of the rebasing exercise started off smoothly in most parts of the country, some Zambians in rural areas were not aware of the rebased currency and in some instances refused to do any business transactions with the customers having the new notes. 

Supporters of the new Zambian currency gave many potential benefits of the new currency. The elimination of the three zeros had a direct impact when it comes to carrying money. If you were carrying huge amounts of money around using the old notes, it now meant that you were now carrying just a fraction of it with the new notes. 

Critics of the rebasing exercise have however condemned it as a sheer waste of money. They reasoned that there were other better ways of spending money considering the numerous problems the country was experiencing, than spending it to mint new money.

Rebased Zambia Currency Fact Sheet

  • One US Dollar was worth a little more than KR5 at the time of rebasing
  • Kwacha notes were in six denominations:  2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 notes
  • One Kwacha and Ngwee coins were in denominations of: Kwacha 1, 5 Ngwee, 10 Ngwee and 50 Ngwee.

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