No coins please, my pockets are more precious

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Kenyans are such coin collectors they keep a total of Sh2.5 billion shillings in coppers and silvers in their office drawers, car glove compartments, piggy banks, purses, old shoes and cracked metal cups.

Although this means that Kenyans take care of the coins so that pounds can take care of themselves, the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) is not amused. According to CBK, this scenario has led to a shortage of coins forcing the cashier at a supermarket near you to issue sweets, ball gum, and matchboxes instead of coins as change.

The Central Bank of Kenya had, as of April this year, distributed 1.2 billion coins worth Sh4.8 billion. That is pretty penny.  “Of these coins” said James Teko Lokoyetum, the bank’s Director of Currency Operations, “more than half the pieces are being withheld or hoarded by the public while others are carried away by tourists as souvenirs.” He lamented that “the CBK releases the coins but these never flow back to it.” Money, some wiseacre said, is like manure: It is not worth anything unless you spread it. The Central Bank knows that Sh2.5 billion irritating circular pieces of metal make a difference when injected back into the economy. It is the kind of money that can build a fully-fledged hospital for, instance, just why the bank wants you to change the coins into paper money.

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But have you ever wondered where local currency got its name? Ours is called pesa, from Peso the Spanish currency. Our lowest denomination is five cents, also called Ndururu. Or Oruro in street slang. Ndururu is Swahili for “light, small, thin, undersize or weak.” The 10-cent coin, or peni, had a Sheng name, Ng’och, which gradually diminished in use as the value of the shilling nosed south over the years.
 
The earliest currency in Kenya, according to the CBK was the Maria Theresa Thalers which were silver coins used in world trade since they were first minted in 1751. They were named after Empress Maria Theresa of the Austro-Hungarian Empire between 1740 and 1780.  The Maria Theresa Thalers found their way to shores of eastern Africa in the 1800s and were similar to the Spanish Peso hence the word pesa. The coins hardly reached the interior despite their popularity at the coast. The Indian Rupees, however, managed to do so since it was used to pay the Asian labourers during the construction of the Uganda Railway. The labourers spent their wages buying ghee and produce from communities along the railroad effectively introducing a cash economy in the interior which would later be boosted by forced taxation that forced adults to seek employment with the colonial government and settler farms. This way, the Rupee became the acceptable legal tender besides earning different names in mother tongue. –
 
Source-Daily Nation.
 
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