Ghana Old Currency
The Ghanaian cedi (currency sign: GH₵; currency code: GHS) is the unit of currency of Ghana. It is the fourth historical and only current legal tender in the Republic of Ghana. One cedi is divided into one hundred pesewas (Gp).
After it gained independence Ghana separated itself from the British West African pound, which was the currency of the British colonies in the region. The new republic’s first independent currency was the Ghanaian pound (1958-1965). In 1965, Ghana decided to leave the British colonial monetary system and adopt the widely accepted decimal system. The African name Cedi (1965-1967) was introduced in place of the old British pound system. Ghana’s first President Kwame Nkrumah introduced Cedi notes and Pesewa coins in July 1965 to replace the Ghanaian pounds, shillings and pence. The cedi was equivalent to eight shillings and four pence (8s 4d) and bore the portrait of the President.
After the February 1966 military coup, the new leaders wanted to remove the face of Nkrumah from the banknotes. The “new cedi” (1967-2007) was worth 1.2 cedis which made it equal to half of a pound sterling at its introduction. After decades of high inflation devalued the new cedi, it was gradually phased out in 2007 in favor of the “Ghana cedi” at an exchange rate of 1:10,000. In 2007 the largest of the new cedi banknotes, the 20,000 note, had a value of about US$2. By removing four digits, the Ghana cedi became the highest-denominated currency unit issued in Africa. It has since lost about 75% of its value.
The first cedi was replaced in 1967 by a “new cedi” which was worth 1.2 first cedis. This allowed a decimal conversion with the pound, namely 2 second cedis = 1 pound. The change also provided an opportunity to remove Kwame Nkrumah’s image from coins and notes.
The second cedi was initially pegged to the British pound at a rate of 2 cedi = 1 pound. However, within months, the second cedi was devalued to a rate of 2.45 second cedi = 1 pound, less than the value of the first cedi. This rate was equivalent to 1 cedi = 0.98 U.S. dollars and the rate to the dollar was maintained when the British pound was devalued in November 1967. Further pegs were set of $0.55 in 1971, $0.78 in 1972, and $0.8696 in 1973 before the currency was floated in 1978. High inflation ensued, and so the cedi was re-pegged at ₵2.80 = $1.00.
Inflation continued to eat away at the cedi’s value on the black market. In the early 1980s, the government started cracking down hard on the retail of products at prices other than the official established sale price (price controls). This had the effect of driving nearly all commerce underground, where black market prices for commodities were the norm, and nothing existed on store shelves. By 1983 the cedi was worth about 120 to one U.S. dollar on the black market, a pack of cigarettes cost about ₵150 (if they could be found), but the bank rate continued at ₵2.80 = $1.00. Finally, with foreign currency completely drying up for all import transactions, the government was forced to begin a process of gradual devaluation, and a liberalization of its strict price controls. This process ended in 1990 with a free float of the cedi against foreign currencies. Inflation continued (see exchange rate chart) until by July 2007, the cedi was worth about 9500 to one US dollar, and a transition to the third cedi was initiated.
In 1979 a currency confiscation took place. New banknotes were issued which were exchanged for old at a rate of 10 old for 7 new. Coins and bank accounts were unaffected.
A second confiscation took place in 1982, when the ₵50 note (the highest denomination) was demonetized. Ghanaians, in theory, could exchange any number of ₵50 notes for coins or other banknotes without loss, but foreigners could not make any exchange. However, many Ghanaians who were hoarding large amounts of cedis feared reprisal if they tried to convert all of it, and so simply burned a lot of their money. Many other Ghanaians received “promise payment notes” from the banks, but never received compensation. This confiscation was publicly justified as a means to create a disincentive for the flourishing black market. However, from a monetary perspective, currency confiscations have the effect of reducing the available cash in the economy, and thereby slowing the rate of inflation. After the ₵50 note confiscation, the ₵20 note was the highest cedi denomination, but had a street value of only about $0.35 (U.S.)
After the ₵50 note confiscation, fears existed that the government could also confiscate the ₵20 or even the ₵10 notes. This fear, along with inflation running at about 100% annually, started causing Ghanaian society to lose its faith in its own currency. Some transactions could only then be done in foreign currencies (although that was technically illegal), and other more routine transactions began to revert to a barter economy.
In 1991, 10, 20, 50, and 100 cedi coins were introduced, followed by 200 and 500 cedis in 1996. These six denominations were still in circulation until 2007. However, the 10 cedis (~0.1 U.S. cents) and 20 cedis (~0.2 U.S. cents) coins were not seen much due to their small value.