for the purposes of this website, Western Africa includes Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Saint Helena, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo
A young Gambian lady graces the front of this banknote of Gambia. Adjacent to her is an image of the giant kingfisher bird of Gambia. The giant kingfisher, pictured at rest, and also in flight in a smaller image to the left, can be 18 inches long and resides throughout sub-Sahara Africa.
A scene with cattle and herders, in a meadow with palm trees in the background, is on the back of our banknote.
Properly called The Gambia, (like The Bahamas), Gambia is completely surrounded by Senegal, except for a brief Atlantic Ocean coast. The land of The Gambia is completely dominated by the mighty Gambia River flowing due West into the Atlantic ocean from the mountains in the East. The river is navigable for almost 1000 kilometers inland from the ocean and thus invited early explorers. The Portuguese, the earliest known European explorers, traveling South from Portugal, first encountered and explored the somewhat parallel running Senegal River in the North. A decade later, they rounded Cape Verde, the westernmost point of the African continent and encountered and began the exploration of the river Gambia. A century or so later, the French and the British exploratory endeavors began to overshadow those of the Portuguese and Spanish, and the French settled the regions around the Senegal River and the British settled the Gambia River territory.
The island in at the mouth of the river, now known as Kunta Kinteh Island, has been designated as a world UNESCO heritage site. The first European settlers arrived in the late 1500s from Holland, but in 1664 the island was ceded to the British. Thereafter, if not before, it became integral to the African Slave Trade. The island itself became well known through the influential Alex Haley broadcast Roots. Kunte Kinteh is the name of a character described in Roots.
The date of our banknote not known exactly, but the features on the front and back were known to occur on 1996 and 2006 issues of the 5 dalasis banknote, and therefore likely all of the intervening years too.. The 2015 issue of the 5 dalasis banknote is pretty much the same on the front and back except that the image of the happy young lady is replaced with the image of the then president, Yahya Jammeh. Jammeh seized power in 1994 in a coup d’e’tat and ruled for 22 years until he fled the land in 2017 following an electoral defeat. So the 2015 banknote image shows him near the conclusion of his reign. Today his administration stands accused of perpetrating violence against the people including executions tortures and rapes. A truth and reconciliation commission was established October 15, 2018 to further the healing of the nation.
Rei Amador, an inspiring symbol of freedom and self-determination, is named and featured on our 2013 banknote. In 1595 Rei Amador led the slave rebellion, known as the Maafa Revolt, on San Tome against the Portuguese. On July 9, 1595, boldly, in the face of the Portuguese invaders, he raised a flag and proclaimed himself as king of Sao Tome and Principe. Half of the enslaved population rallied to him and fought against the Portuguese, but the superior weaponry of the Portuguese overmastered the rebellion. Rei Amador is considered the forerunner of all of the African Abolitionists; the predecessor of Toussaint Louverture of Haiti, Nzumbi of Brazil, Samory Toure of Guinea and Francois Makandal of Saint-Domingue.
The beautiful papa figo bird adorns the same side of our banknote.
The national coat of arms is represented on the front of our banknote.
The central shield is upheld by a falcon on the left and a parrot on the right.
A star rests above the shield.
The banner below the shield displays the motto of the nation: Unity, Discipline, Work.
Bai Bureh, the great Warrior of Sierra Leone, is named and featured on our 2013 banknote of Sierra Leone.
To me, his image on our banknote is quite striking, more so than the images of most any other leader on most any other banknote I have observed. Bai Bureh’s image resembles that of the classic jester of the courts of Europe of the middle ages. Sometimes it was only the jester that could be sufficiently daring to point out the folly of the ruler; and Bai Bureh, perhaps more than anyone in Africa, caused their overlords, the British to turn in circles. At the end of this post, the reader will find the only known photograph of Bai Bureh, taken in 1898 as he sits peacefully, under arrest, with his unmistakable impish grin. One can sense that his guard adores him. He is revered to this day in Sierra Leone.
In his youth, his father sent him to a nearby small village for training in the craft of warriors. His training elders recognized in young Bai superior innate abilities. They named him Kebalai, the Warrior who never tires of War. Not long after his return to his village he was named ruler of the village. In succeeding years he defeated this and that territory and led his followers to victory over invaders and afterwards restoring the territory to the rightful inhabitants. The people recognized in Bar Bureh a true leader and rallied around him and crowned him leader of Northern Sierra Leone in 1886. He was 46 years of age.
As the British extended their power and during the Scramble for Africa, Bar Bureh continually resisted and evaded them. He refused to acknowledge their treaties and he refused to pay their taxes. Bar Bureh wanted the British to go home to Britain and let the Sierra Leone’s manage their own affairs. Soon the British sent the military after him, but his superior knowledge of the terrain and innate brilliant skill allowed him to evade the British time and time again.
His humor delighted his followers and appears to have charmed his enemies. Upon the British governor’s offer of 100 pounds for information leading to the capture of Bai Bureh, Bureh issued an offer of 500 pounds for the capture of the British governor.
The story is told that upon his capture, the British treated him as a political prisoner, rather than a military captive. Subsequently, rather than executing in the manner routine in that era, he was sent into exile in a neighboring country, some historians suggesting that all of this treatment indicated the respect of Mr. Bai Bureh by the British army.
Today, Bai Bureh is considered by many military historians as the pioneer of modern guerilla warfare methods.
The photo at left is the only known photo of Mr. Bai Bureh, the Great Hero of Sierra Leone. A remarkable and delightful article on the recent discovery and authentication of this sole photograph is online here, and I certainly urge the reader to read that article.
The photo at left if from wikipedia and attributed as follows:
By Lieutenant Arthur Greer – http://www.sierraexpressmedia.com/archives/57097, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28429122
The capital letter “C” in the top right corner and on lower left area of our banknote is the indicator that this West Africa banknote originates in Burkina Faso. This CFA franc is backed by the treasury of France and is a common currency for 8 West African countries. These countries as of the date of this post are Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Togo, Guinea-Bissau, Benin, Mali, Niger and Senegal.
The artwork is striking and sets these banknotes among the most beautiful in the world. The artist is Pierrette Lambert, who developed the art for numerous banknotes.1
In the background center is a uranium smelting plant.
On the reverse of our banknote we are treated to a typical local market scene.
The italicized text below is taken entirely from Wikipedia (reference at end) and is in this website for reference.
“The West African CFA franc (XOF) is known in French as the Franc CFA, where CFA stands for Communauté financière d’Afrique (“Financial Community of Africa”) or Communauté Financière Africaine (“African Financial Community”). It is issued by the BCEAO (Banque Centrale des États de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, i.e., “Central Bank of the West African States”), located in Dakar, Senegal, for the eight countries of the UEMOA (Union Économique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine, i.e., “West African Economic and Monetary Union”): Benin Burkina Faso Guinea-Bissau Ivory Coast Mali Niger Senegal Togo These eight countries have a combined population of 102.5 million people (as of 2013), and a combined GDP of US$78.4 billion (as of 2012).”1
The banknotes generally utilize the same images both on the front and the back. The country of issuance is identifiable by a country code, a single letter. The country codes are as follows:
A – Ivory Coast
B – Benin
C – Burkina Faso
D – Mali
H – Niger
K – Senegal
T – Togo
S – Guinea-Bissau
This CFA franc originates in Benin. The country code on the front of the banknote, top right corner and lower left, indicates this. The country codes are as follows: A – Ivory Coast; B – Benin; C – Burkina Faso; D – Mali; H – Niger; K – Senegal; T – Togo; S Guinea-Bissau.1
The first two digits of the serial number indicate the year the banknote was issued. This banknote was issued in 1994.
The front of our year 2016 banknote features one time President of Liberia, Samuel K. Doe. 1, the first native Head of State in the history of Liberia. 2 The story of President Doe incarnates the dichotomy of Liberia. Samuel K. Doe, born in 1950, become Head of State in 1980 at age 30, died by assassination in 1990 at age 40, and honored on our banknote twenty-six years after that.
For 133 years previous, the government of Liberia was dominated by the pioneering founders of the country and their descendants. In 1980, that all changed.
The generations-long brew of resentment among indigenous inhabitants of Liberia and the descendants of American transplants informed the thinking of young Samuel Doe. Having joined the army at age 18, and having displayed talent, in 1980, at age 30 he led the squadron which took the palace and killed the President. Naming himself general, Samuel Doe became Head of State at age 30, the first native Head of State in the history of Liberia.
The flag is modeled after that of the United States of America. Liberia’s 11 stripes represent the 11 signers of the Lberian Declaration of Independence. The single star symbolizes African unity.
The Coat of Arms for Liberia contains numerous symbols of the country’s founding and aspirations.
The sailing ship represents the arrival of freed slaves from the United States. The plow and the shovel represent dignity and labor. The palm tree represents royalty; and the rising sun, the birth of the country. The white dove symbolizes the breath of peace. The motto of the nation is bannered across the top of the shield, The Love of Liberty Brought Us Here.3
The colonial era began with the voyage of Christopher Columbus across the Atlantic ocean in 1492. What has become known as the Atlantic slave trade, commenced almost simultaneously, and grew with the growth of colonialism. In 1494, the Pope blessed the Treaty of Tordesillas which effectively divided the New World, outside of Europe, between Spain and Portugal, an indicator of just who were the dominating world powers at that time. For the next one and one third centuries, the colonial era was largely the story of the Spanish and the Portuguese; and so was the story of the Atlantic slave trade.
Within 10 years of Columbus’ first voyage of 1492, the first African slave arrived in the new Spanish colony. The year was 1501. The place was Hispaniola, now known as The Dominican Republic. The Portuguese began to colonize Brazil in 1532. Although the Portuguese initiated their slave operations in the new world later than Spain, it wasn’t long before they exceeded Spain in the slave trade. In fact, by the time of the final abolition of the African Slave Trade, the Portuguese had imported more African slaves into Brazil than any other country did into any other colony. An estimate has 4 million slaves from Africa arriving in Brazil, 40% of the total number of slaves from Africa in the New World.4 Another million arrived in Spanish colonies.
With the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, ‘the image of Spain’s invulnerability in the Atlantic’5 was also overthrown. Soon other European nations embarked on colonization programs and, building upon the established economic model, expanded the Atlantic Slave Trade. These nations included Great Britain, France, Holland and Denmark. The Dutch transported their first slaves to colonies in 1637 and the British in 1641. And then the British were among the first nations to abolish slavery in1808, followed soon by Holland in 1814.6Spain abolished slavery in 1818 and Portugal in 1858. Approximately 4% of the total Atlantic slave trade arrived in the territories now under the governance of the United States.
Slaves were transported to the United States territory, both before and after the founding of the country. Modern estimates from various sources often range around 400,000 souls in total789., with about 25% arriving following the ratification of the Constitution, and 99% of that latter number to the southern states of the country.10
The spreading views of The Enlightenment combined with Christian sentiments to fuel political movements against slavery in the early history and prehistory of the United States. These views rang out in the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson in 177611 and the 2nd Inaugural address of Abraham Lincoln12 almost 100 years later.
In the early years after the founding of the United States of America, a movement developed out of concern for the slavery dilemma. By this time, slavery as an institution was well established, particularly in the agricultural oriented states of the South. And, in the natural evolution of things, there were people who defended slavery, people who attacked slavery, people who were slaves, and people who were free men now and formerly slaves. What to do? What is to be Done? Liberia was an early answer to this question. Liberia. The very name means Liberty. Liberia.
An early movement was known as American Colonization Society led directly to the founding of our nation Liberia. In 1822 the ACS formed a colony on the West coast of Africa with the intent to found a nation for free African Americans. The concept was that freedom there would be better than emancipation within the United States. The concept had supporters and detractors across the spectrum, but the colony was established and in 1847 declared independence as the country of Liberia, about a decade and a half before the American Emancipation Proclamation and Civil War. By 1867, just after the end of the American Civil War, 13,000 people had emigrated to Liberia from the United States..
The map below is from the website database www.slavevoyages.org. Select tab “Assessing the Slave Trade”, and, from the drop down menu, select “Introductory Maps“, and got to Map 9: Volume and direction of the trans-Atlantic slave trade from all African to all American regions
I would sincerely welcome your suggestions for improvement to this article. Thank you.
The CFA franc was introduced in 1945. The letter “K appearing twice on the front of our banknote is the distinguishing mark that identifies Senegal as the country of origin. The other countries sharing the CFA franc, with their identifying marks are: Côte d’Ivoire / Ivory Coast “A”; Benin “B”; Burkina Faso “C”; Mali “D”; Niger “H”; Togo “T” and Guinea-Bissau “S”. Senegal, as stated, has “K” as the identifying mark.1
The back of our banknote features canoes, men, and, the river. It is thought by many that the origin of the word “Senegal” is an early word in a local dialect meaning “our canoe”. This meaning, although disputed by some technicians, has nevertheless become popular today, being used commonly in phrases with meanings to the effect: “we are all in the same canoe.“2
French West Africa was a federation of 8 states existing from 1895 until 1960.3
Senegal’s Capt-Vert projects its triangular point 4 directly into the Atlantic Ocean, the westernmost point of the grand collective landmass termed Afro-Eurasia.5 Also known as Cape Verde, it is roughly equidistant between the mouths of two great rivers, the Senegal and the Gambia, about 100 kilometers from each. These became the early colonial outposts of the Europeans.
Middle 1400s Portuguese explorers, decades before the voyage of Columbus, reached the Senegal first (being the northernmost river of the two and closer to Portugal), rounded Cape Verde and explored the Gambia second (map image6 right). Two hundred years later, the French and the British, emerging from their own borders with global ambition, established trading posts, and then settlements, and, eventually, forts in the region, the French at the Senegal River and Cape Verde area, and the British at the Gambia river. In the wars of the 17th and 18th centuries between the French and the British, these West African settlements changed hands again and again. But by the time of the late 19th century “scramble for Africa”, the French found themselves in the better position.
The British found themselves occupying a relatively thin strip from the ocean, inland along the banks of the Gambia River. France occupied the regions along the Senegal River, the region of Cape Verde, and the land completely surrounding the British on both banks of the Gambia and inland. These boundaries remain unto this day; and that’s why the map looks the way it does.7
Senegal celebrates its Independence Day on April 4th. On April 4, 1959, Senegal joined with French Sudan to form the Mali Federation, which became independent from France the following year, April 4, 1960 with the signing of a Transfer of Power Agreement. Due to internal political differences, that federation swiftly dissolved and the two nations declared separate independences in August of the same year. Senegal retained its name Senegal, and the former French Sudan adopted the name Mali. Mali celebrates its Independence Day September 22, that date in 1960 being the day it emerged independent from the Mali Federation.
The Palm Tree stands in front of the Rising Sun. The national anthem of Biafra is “The Land of the Rising Sun”1, written by Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first president of Nigeria, and considered the father of Nigerian nationalism.
The Republic of Biafra is the name of a 1960s secessionist state in Western Africa. The Ibo people, sometimes called Igbo, predominantly occupied the coastal region of southeastern Nigeria including the delta of the mighty Niger River.2 Economic, cultural and religious tensions issued in a secessionist movement which led to the Nigerian Civil War lasting from July 1967 until January 1970. The independence of Biafra was recognized by a number of surrounding nations and was supported by with arms from France. Most of the rest of the world supported Nigeria’s claim to control over the region. Nigeria was further supported with supplies of military arms from Britain and the United States.3
The international movement known as Medicins Sans Frontieres, or, Doctors Without Borders, was born in response to the crisis in Biafra.4
The image of the rising sun beyond the palm tree features prominently on the front of our banknote. Biafra adopted the song The Land of the Rising Sun1 as its anthem. The words were written by Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first president of Nigeria, and, regarded as the father of Nigerian nationalism.
The coat of arms of Biafra is featured on the back of our banknote. As is appropriate, the symbols are full of meaning.2
The eagle: Sovereignty, Pride and Self-Esteem
The horn of the cow: Cultural heritage
The shield: the map of Biafra
The rising sun: Expectation
Eleven Rays of sunshine: the original 11 provinces of Biafra
The name Togo is translated from the Ewe language as “land where lagoons lie”.1. The Ewe are perhaps the largest of about 30 ethnicities inhabiting Togo.
The Portuguese arrived in 1490, two years before Columbus set sail to the West, and, thus, just on the cusp of the colonial age. In a few short decades the colonial era took off, and with it, the Atlantic Slave Trade. Togo and its neighboring regions earned the infamous name “The Slave Coast”.
The Map below is found in the Wikipedia article on the Slave Coast of Africa.2 Outlined in yellow towards the left of the map is Togoland, the name given to Togo during the period in which it was a German protectorate. The concave Atlantic Coast below is known as The Bight of Benin and bears the name Slave Coast in this map.
Togoland became a German protectorate following the Berlin Conference of 1884, which effectively launched the Scramble for Africa.3 Just about a decade prior to the Berlin Conference, about 10% of Africa was under formal European control. It was about 90% under formal European control about 3 decades after the conference. During those few decades, European governments channeled their national ambitions and martial energies into Africa. But they weren’t exhausted as evidenced by WWI.
The German protectorate was invaded and taken by French and British forces early in WWI and subdivided into British Togoland and French Togoland.
June 3, 1941 is the date on our French West African banknote, colonies of France.
June 3, 1941, is just about one year after Germany began to effectively “colonize” France in 1940 with its invasion at the commencement of WW2. And it’s just about 3 years before June 6, 1944, D-Day, when the Allied invasion in French Normandy commenced, leading to the Independence of France from its colonizers.
Our banknote is a glimpse into French West Africa, during the time that its colonizer was being colonized.
The back of our banknote illustrates a weaver at his trade in French West Africa, There is a glorious tradition to the craft worldwide, and Africa is prominent.1
Our banknote is a relic of the sins of the past. It is testament to changing sensibilities that the story of this banknote would stun many in our modern word. But, none the less, that same story, represented by this banknote, haunts a billion people to this day.
French West Africa, or, in the French language of our banknote, Afrique Occidentale, is the name of the late 19th century and early 20th century administrative grouping of African states under French colonial rule.2 A common currency was utilized through much of this period.
European political and economic rivalries led to what has come to be known as The Scramble for Africa 3 in the concluding decades of the 1800s. With the advances in the Age of Industrialization, the formerly challenging logistics of transportation and communication and resource development became simpler, and consequently, more far reaching. Nations vied with one another for resources and safe trade routes and secure lines of communication. Military bases were sought to secure those routes, such as Britain’s to its colony in India. In addition to such hard assets, politicians coveted colonial possessions for prestige on the world stage and as negotiating chips in the world game. To avoid war over territories, Bismarck of Germany, prompted by the Portuguese and supported by the British, called a meeting of interested nations to resolve differences and competing interests. This became known as the Berlin Conference of 1884.4
The Berlin Conference delineated procedures by which nations could claim territory in Africa as their own colony. In addition to recognizing several historic colonial claims, the Principle of Effective Occupation 5 was promulgated which was to have rapid impact and lasting effect on the continent. Essentially, it would be henceforth considered insufficient to simply place one’s flag on the coast and claim an entire continent for the King as had been done by nations in the 15th and 16th centuries. Under this Principle, it was necessary to have established some form of administration, treaties with inhabitants, policing force and other elements of occupation.
With the establishment of the Principle of Effective Occupation, the Conquest of Africa having already accelerated in the previous decade, now intensified into the Scramble for Africa. Expeditions were launched into the interior, treaties were established and often coerced from the natural inhabitants, and settlements were established. Within a short time essentially all of Africa was subdivided into colonial territories under European control. 6 New boundary lines, enforced by European politics, crisscrossed the continent. These new lines had no connection to history, traditional hunting grounds, migration routes, sacred burial grounds.
European colonialism of Africa collapsed following WW2, but the colonial boundaries remain. The generation of leaders in Africa arising with the post war independence movements, generally adhered to the established stated boundaries in hopes of avoiding new conflicts among the peoples. The boundaries, though, have no regard for traditional separations or commerce of the local ethnicities of the natural inhabitants of the land. This is one significant reason for separatist movements in Africa. 7
The region formerly known as French West Africa, is today occupied by the following countries: Ivory Coast, Benin, Mali, Guinea, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Togo and Nigeria.
October 2, 1958, Guinea declared independence from France.
In 1959, the Guinean franc banknote was issued to replace the CFA franc. In 1960, 1st Mars, the date of our banknote, the 2nd issue of the Guinean franc was issued.1
Historically, the Guinea region was one of the first parts of Africa to trade with Europeans. In 1478 (during the War of the Castilian Succession), a Castilian armada of 35 caravels and a Portuguese fleet fought the battle of Guinea in the waters off Elmina, for the hegemony of the Guinea trade (gold, slaves, ivory and black pepper). The war ended both with a Portuguese naval victory and the official recognition by the Catholic Monarchs of the Portuguese sovereignty over most of the African territories in dispute (Treaty of Alcáçovas, 1479). This was the first colonial war among European powers. Many more would come. After the Portuguese and Castilians came the Dutch, French and British. The extensive trade in ivory, gold, and slaves made the region wealthy, with a number of centralized kingdoms developing in the 18th and 19th centuries. These were much smaller than the large states of the wide-open Sahel, but they had far higher population densities and were more centralized politically. The cohesion of these kingdoms caused the region to show more resistance to European incursions than other areas of Africa. Such resistance, combined with a disease environment hostile to Europeans, meant that much of Guinea was not colonised by Europeans until the very end of the 19th century. 2
Portuguese Guinea was a West African colony of Portugal from the late 15th century until 1973 when it declared independence from Portugal as Guinea-Bissau. The Glorification of Triumph is celebrated in this beautiful banknote.
The beautiful artwork on the back of this banknote is the allegory named “Apoteose ao Triunfo”, which translates from the Portuguese as, the “Glorification of Triumph”. In the foreground are men and women and children bringing forth in celebration the bounty of the land. And in the background, as if illustrating what is in their minds as they celebrate, are universal images of triumph and glory. In the foreground, the man standing on the right is holding an arade, a classic farming instrument of the region. Everywhere there is bounty. In the lower right there is a chicken and a goat. In the center foreground there are baskets abounding with the tropical fruits of the land. Standing on the right, a woman is holding a basket of fish, while seated on the left, one is pouring a cup of nectar. All the while, musical instruments are being played.
From 1975 to 1997, the peso was the currency of Guinea-Bissau from 1975 to 1997. In 1997 Guinea-Bissau switched to the West African CFA franc.1
Guinea-Bissau is on the West coast of Africa immediately South of Senegal. It’s complex coastline, as seen in the image2 at the left, with its numerous islands bays and inlets, was attractive to the early Portuguese explorers. They claimed the territory and named it Portuguese Guinea in 1446.
Portuguese Guinea became a major export port for the Portuguese Atlantic Slave Trade.