What is the currency of Sierra Leone?

14 Sep 2022 - Category: Blog /
sierraleone currency

Located on the west coast of Africa, Sierra Leone is home to beautiful white beaches and a uniquely wonderful culture. If you have loved ones in Sierra Leone or you're thinking of moving there yourself, learning about the currency can greatly improve your knowledge of the country.

Here we'll be exploring everything you need to know about the currency of Sierra Leone. There have been some changes recently, so it is important to explore them and understand the best time to send money to Sierra Leone or when to exchange cash. We hope this information will help you make informed decisions when you travel or if you need to send money to those based in the country.

Below you'll learn about:

What currency does Sierra Leone use?

The currency of Sierra Leone is the Leone. The leone is only used in Sierra Leone. The Leone was first introduced on August 4, 1964, and it replaced the British West African Pound. It replaced the pound at a rate of 1 pound = 2 leone. The Bank of Sierra Leone controls the currency.

Wrapped up in the history of the leone are the events of the twentieth century. Examples include the country's independence from the United Kingdom in 1961 and the Sierra Leone Civil War that began in 1991 and lasted until the twenty-first century.

The leone banknotes come in various colours, including red, brown, purple and a combination of blue and green on the 10,000 leone note. The neighbouring countries like Liberia and Guinea use their own unique currencies, and many of the surrounding West African countries use the West African CFA franc.

How is the Leone recognised?

The leone is recognised by the abbreviated symbol: Le, and the international currency code has recently changed from SLL to SLE. The leone is subdivided into 100 cents, but due to inflation, and the low relative value of the leone, denominations in cents are not used anymore.

The coins in current circulation include the Le 10, Le 50, Le 100 and the Le 500. With the introduction of decimal currency in 1964, a few years after independence, the unit name was originally called Shillings before the name Leone was finally chosen.

The history of the Leone

The leone was introduced in 1964 to replace the British West African pound. In the early years of the leone, the size and look of the coins were based on the British West African versions. The first leones had the depiction of Sir Milton Margai, the first prime minister of Sierra Leone.

Today, the faces on the currency are different. The current leone in circulation features important national figures and political leaders. They include Bai Bureh, a Sierra Leone ruler who fought against British rule and Sengbe Pieh, a man of the Mende people who led a slave revolt on the Spanish slave ship La Amistad.

In 1972, new 50 cents leone coins were introduced that depicted the image of the first president of Sierra Leone, Dr Siaka Stevens. Then in 1987, 1 leone coins were introduced with a portrait of General Joseph Saidu Momoh.

Throughout history, the leone has struggled to stay stable and often suffers from inflation problems. Trade with other countries in the region has helped to improve the fortune of the leone. However, inner turmoil within the country, including the civil war, means the leone has not developed as a strong currency.

The Leone today

As of July 2022, Sierra Leone has had a new currency. However, the new currency is still known as the leone. It is commonly known as the Second Leone to avoid confusion. The second leone is recognised with the code SLE rather than SLL.

New coins were reissued in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents. There are also redenominated banknotes in the values of 1, 2, 5, 10, and 20 leones were introduced in 2022, the 20 leones being a new denomination, and the 1-10 leones notes keep the themes and designs of their preceding issues of 1,000 to 10,000 old Leone notes.

The current series of leone banknotes features significant figures in the history of Sierra Leone. On the red 1000 leone note, Bai Bureh, a Sierra Leone ruler from the 19th century is depicted alongside the Coat of Arms of Sierra Leone. The brown 200-leone notes feature Isaac Theophilus Akunna Wallace-Johnson on one side and a picture of the Bank of Sierra Leone in Freetown on the other.

The Second Leone will be dropping the last three zeros in all denominations. This means SLL 10,000 will be SLE 10. It doesn't seem very clear, but the government assures everyone it is a move designed to improve the country's economic outlook.

Exchange rates

It helps to compare the leone to other major currencies around the world. For example, by comparing the leone to the currencies of other African nations like Nigeria and other major countries like the US, you can get a good idea about the worth of the leone and the health of the Sierra Leone economy.

Keep in mind that conversions to the second leone (SLE) are not easily found as it is such a new currency, but it is still possible to explore the old conversion rates.

For example, in 2022, the average exchange of the Leone to the Nigerian Naira was 1 NGN to 32 SLL. Similarly, during this same period, the average exchange rate of the Leone to the West African CFA franc has been hovering around 1 XOF to 21 SLL. These exchange rates indicate the success of the Sierra Leone economy compared to other African countries.

The average exchange rate of the US dollar to the Leone during 2021 was 1 USD to 13,891 SLL. A similar comparison shows that the average exchange rate of the euro to the leone throughout 2021 was around 1 EUR to 13,950 SLL.

Knowing these exchange rates will also help you if you travel to Sierra Leone or want to send money to loved ones in the country.

How can I send money to Sierra Leone?

Sending money to Sierra Leone is easy with Small World's international money transfer service. You can send money to Sierra Leone from our agents, branches, online or through our app.

You can send money to Sierra Leone with Small World via Cash Pickup or Mobile Wallet. Both methods are quick, simple and secure.

Your first transfer online is always free of fees!

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