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British West African pound

A 1953 20 shilling note of the West African Currency Board.

The British West African Pound was once the currency of British West Africa, a group of British colonies, protectorates and mandate territories. It was equal to the pound sterling and was similarly subdivided into 20 shillings, each of 12 pence. This currency is now obsolete.


  • History 1
  • Coins 2
  • Banknotes 3
  • See also 4
  • References and sources 5
  • External links 6


In the 19th century, the pound sterling became the currency of the British West African territories and standard issue United Kingdom coinage circulated. The West African territories in question are Nigeria, the Gold Coast (now Ghana), Sierra Leone and the Gambia.

In 1912,[1] the special circumstances of British West Africa resulted in the authorities in London setting up the West African Currency Board and issuing a distinctive set of sterling coinage for local use. In 1910, Australia had already commenced issuing its own distinctive varieties of the sterling coinage, but the reasons for doing so were quite different from those relating to British West Africa. In the case of Australia, the local sterling coinage was issued by the authorities in Australia as a step in its advance towards full nationhood. In the case of British West Africa, it was the authorities in London who made the decision to issue a special coinage for the West African territories. The authorities in London did not do this for any other British colony that used the sterling coinage, with the exception of Jamaica where special low denomination coins were issued in place of the United Kingdom copper coins, due to local superstitions surrounding the use of copper coinage for church collections.

The special circumstances in British West Africa that prompted the move towards a special issue of sterling coinage were that there was a tendency for the existing United Kingdom sterling coinage in the West African territories to leave the region and return to the United Kingdom, hence causing a local dearth of coinage. A unique British West African variety of the sterling coinage that would not be accepted in the shops of England, would therefore remain in circulation locally. Liberia also adopted the currency in 1907, replacing the Liberian dollar, despite the fact it was not served by the West African Currency Board. Liberia changed to the U.S. dollar in 1943. The British sections of Togo and Cameroon adopted the West African currency in 1914 and 1916 respectively after being taken from Germany.

Beginning in 1958, the West African pound was replaced by local currencies in the individual territories. The replacements were:
Country Date New
Conversion Rate
From BWA pound
Wester Nigeria 1958 Nigerian pound 1
Ghana 1958 Ghanaian pound 1
Nigeria 1958 Nigerian pound 1
British Cameroon 1961 CFA franc 700
Sierra Leone 1964 Leone 2
Gambia 1968 Gambian pound 1


Two shilling coin from 1949
One-tenth penny coins from British West Africa, dated 1936 and 1939.

In 1907, aluminium 110 penny and cupro-nickel 1 penny coins were introduced. Both coins were holed. In 1908, cupro-nickel replaced aluminium in the 110 penny and, in 1911, holed, cupro-nickel ½ penny coins were introduced. In 1913, silver 3 and 6 pence, 1 and 2 shillings were introduced. In 1920, brass replaced silver in these denominations.

In 1938, larger, cupro-nickel 3 pence coins were introduced, with nickel-brass replacing brass in the higher denominations. In 1952, bronze replaced cupro-nickel in the 110, ½ and 1 penny coins. The last coins of British West Africa (pennies) were struck in 1958.


In 1916, the West African Currency Board introduced notes for 2, 10 and 20 shillings, followed by 1 shilling notes in 1918. Only the 10 and 20 shillings notes were issued after 1918, until 100 shillings (5 pounds) notes were introduced in 1953. The last notes (20 shillings) were produced in 1962.

See also

References and sources

  1. ^ "The West African Currency Board - Some Notes with a Nigerian Bias" by Bob Maddocks in Cameo, Journal of the West Africa Study Circle, Vol. 13, No. 2, June 2012, pp. 106-108.
  • Krause, Chester L., and Clifford Mishler (1991).  
  • Pick, Albert (1994).  

External links

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