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Uganda shilling exhibited at SA money museum

The Uganda shilling notes printed in the 1960s and ‘70s are some of the notes displayed at Africa’s biggest money museum in South Africa.

The Absa money museum, the only private money museum on the continent, displays mainly the money history of South Africa – one of the continents most advanced countries.

Its records stretch way back to the beginnings of transactions in South Africa and displays early money forms, like cowrie shells and Venetian glass beads, through to gold coins recovered from sunken ships.

Some of the displayed notes from African countries on display in South Africa money museum

Dr Paul Bayliss, the Absa art and museum curator, said the intent is to show the money journey in South Africa and the fact that the changing environment – political, economic, and social – has a direct impact on the way and what money is used.

South Africa is one of the few countries on the continent that print their own money. This, Bayliss said, shows some level of development and restraint.

Many governments on the continent are not disciplined enough to print own money to correspond with value of their goods. If left to do so, the end result would runway inflation.

The earliest things people traded with are on display too. These include commodity money like salt, seashells, metal and animals. This proto-money had the same basic attributes as money today: scarce and not easily counterfeited.

The museum takes note of the changing security features on money. As people who fake money become more sophisticated, security features have also become hard to manipulate although it has not stopped criminals from printing fake money.

Bayliss said in the 1920s, South Africa was meant to print a note with long-horned cows as its main feature. It was stopped as they found out the feature was easy to manipulate.

Uganda is one of the few countries on the continent whose money is displayed. They include the 5 shilling note printed in 1979, with an imposing woman harvesting coffee, Uganda’s most traded crop. On the reverse, this note has a picture of former president Idi Amin.

Displayed also is the 10, 20, and 100 Uganda shilling notes of the 1970s.

Uganda's Shs 20 note

The museum, however, does not have earliest coins for Uganda and money printed in the 1980s – these can be found at the Bank of Uganda money museum.

The museum displays objects of bank-related crimes – from fake credit cards, ATM cards, and cheques, blown up ATMs. In Johannesburg thieves use bombs to blow up ATMs so as to reach the money.

The museum covers in-depth the history of Absa, South Africa’s biggest banking institution. One thing becomes clear, though: money has been in use much longer than thought – for more than 4,500 years.

Entrance to the Absa money museum is free. Next time you’re in Johannesburg pass by 15 Troye Street, Barclays Towers to get a feel of the money history.  

amwesigwa@observer.ug

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