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What is the currency of Sierra Leone?

27 Oct 2021 - 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 is a good thing to do.

In this blog we’ll be exploring everything you need to know about the currency of Sierra Leone. So you can make informed decisions when you travel or if you need to send money to those based in the country.

Below you’ll learn about:

  • The Sierra Leone local currency, the leone
  • How is the Leone recognized?
  • The history of the Leone
  • The Leone today
  • Exchange rates
  • How can I send money to Sierra Leone?

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 currency is controlled by the Bank of Sierra Leone.

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 a variety of colors 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 recognized?

The leone is recognized by the abbreviated symbol: Le, and by the international currency code SLL. 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 any more.

The coins in current circulation include the Le 10, Le 50, Le 100 and the Le 500. The banknotes that are still circulating are in denominations of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 leones. With the introduction of decimal currency in 1964, a few years after independence, the unit name was originally called Shillings before the unit 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 oldBritish 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 such as 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 the country's 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, such as the civil war in the 1990s, has meant that the leone has not developed into a strong currency.

The Leone today

The current series of leone banknotes features a number of significant figures in the history of Sierra Leone. On the red 1000 leone note Bai Bureh, a Sierra Leone ruler in 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 side.

The notes currently circulating were issued in 2010 and made to be smaller, more durable and more secure than the old banknotes. Recently, due to the high inflation rate of the leone, a 20,000 leone banknote has been suggested.

In response to inflation, in August 2021 the central bank of Sierra Leone announced that there will be a New Leone printed on smaller bills and three zeros will be removed from the currency.

So we know what the leone looks like today, but what about it’s value? Let’s take a look at some exchange rates which will give us a good idea of the value of the leone on a global scale.

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.

For example, in 2021, the average exchange of the Leone to the Nigerian Naira was 1 NGN to 25 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 18 SLL. These exchange rates give an indication of 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 10,318 SLL. A similar comparison shows that the average exchange rate of the euro to the leone throughout 2021 was around 1 EUR to 12,264 SLL.

Knowing these exchange rates will also help you if you are travelling to Sierra Leone or if you want to send money to loved ones based in Sierra Leone.

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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