What you need to know about the Uganda currency 

by Business Times
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The currency structure of Uganda consists of banknotes and coins and is denoted in Uganda Shilling (UGX). 

The following denominations are currently in circulation:


  UGX 1,000 UGX 2,000 UGX 5,000 UGX10, 000 UGX 20,000 and UGX 50,000.


  UGX; 50,100,200, 500 and 1000.

History of Uganda Currency 

Before 1966 the function of managing monetary affairs of Uganda was vested in the East African Currency Board. In 1966 the BoU Act created the Bank of Uganda and started issuing Uganda’s first currency.

According to the bank of Uganda, the Uganda Currency has changed seven times since 1966. The 1966, 1973, 1979, 1983 and 1986 issues as a result of regime changes.

The 1987 issue has undergone a series of upgrading, though not because of political factors but in an effort to crack down counterfeits and ease transactions as well.

First Issue of Currency 

The 1966 currency had coins of: 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, 1 shilling, 2 shilling.

It also had banknotes of:

5 shillings, 10 shillings, 20 shillings, and 100 shillings

1973 issue 

A new government took over in 1971; And in 1973 changes were made to the Banknotes. The denominations of the 1966 Issue were maintained, and a 50-shilling note was also issued. A portrait of President Idi Amin was then introduced on the Banknotes.

1979 issue 

 In 1979, a new government came in place and made slight changes to the currency. While it maintained the same denominations, President Amin’s portrait was replaced with an artist impression of the Bank of Uganda building.

1982/83 Issues

A new government came in place in 1981. In 1982 new currency were issued out and same denominations were maintained. In 1983, the denominations of 500 and 1000 Shillings notes were introduced, and had a portrait of President Milton Obote.

1985/1986 Issues

A new government came in power in 1985. In 1985/86, another issue of currency was made, and President Obote’s portrait replaced with the National Emblem in the middle of the Map of Uganda. A new Banknote of 5000 was also introduced.


1987 Issue

A new government came in place in 1986. New currency with a completely different design was introduced. This currency had coins of 5 cents, 1 shilling, and 2 shillings. 
In 1999 new denomination coins of 50, 100, 200 and 500 shillings were introduced and on December 31, 2000, Notes of Uganda Shilling 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 were demonetized and ceased to be legal tender.

The new currency also maintained same Banknote denominations of: 1000 shillings and 5000 shillings and were upgraded over the years.

In 1995, a new denomination of 10,000 was introduced. It was later upgraded, and on January 02, 2006, the upgraded 10,000 shilling Banknote was issued.
In 1999, Bank of Uganda issued out a new 20,000 banknote.


It was also upgraded, and on November 01, 2004, the upgraded 20,000-shilling note was also issued.

On December 01, 2003, Bank of Uganda issued out a new 50,000-Shilling note.


The 1987 series ceases to be legal tender on 30th March 2013. The public will was allowed to exchange this currency at any commercial bank branch at full face value between 31st March 2013 and 30th May 2013.

2010 Series

The latest family of currency notes was issued in May 2010 with an inclusion of the UGX 2,000 denomination under the themes; Gifted by Nature and Uganda through the times.


All the issues before 1987 have long been demonetized.

50th Independence Anniversary Coin

On 9th October 2012, the Bank issued a Shilling 1000 50th Independence Anniversary Coin to commemorate 50 years of Independence. The coin was issued in two categories, the circulation coin and non-circulation coin. The non-circulation coin is available for sale to the public in two packages; the Acrylic block and Vinyl casing.
The circulation 1,000 commemorative coin will circulate side by side with the shilling 1,000 banknotes.

ALSO READ: Why the Uganda Shilling continues to depreciate against the dollar

Security Features on Uganda Shilling banknotes

Banknotes have always been prone to counterfeiting. It is up to the designers and manufacturers of banknotes to deter potential counterfeiting, drawing on the expertise of the technologists, the printers and banknote paper manufacturers.

Advances in computer technology have resulted in more people having the ability to produce counterfeits. Technological advances mean that the lawful issuer has to follow the advances in technology closely and introduce security features to keep ahead of the counterfeiter.

New security and technical feature developments are therefore continuously being investigated. 
The current 2010 series has been created using the world’s most advanced technology; the sizes of banknotes have also been adjusted to gain both ease of handling and ease of denominational separation. This is why the banknotes are difficult to counterfeit successfully. However, all these technological safeguards mean very little if members of the public do not take note of them, are not on the lookout for forgeries and do not report them immediately.

While the Bank has certainly created money the country can be proud of, it is up to every citizen to protect ourselves and the integrity of the country’s money against counterfeiters.

Security features to look for:

  • A watermark and electrotype formed within the paper – When held up to the light, the crested crane image is visible. You should look for the light area near the eye and the dark area above the beak. The denomination of each banknote is also shown vertically in the electrotype form below the beak.
  • A windowed security thread running through the banknote paper – A special thread is woven into the paper. On the front it appears a silvery stripe. When held up to direct light, it appears as a continuous line and changes colour from red to green when tilted.
  • High quality paper – Members of the public report that they recognize a banknote as a counterfeit by the texture of the paper; and the fineness of the print quality on a genuine banknote is difficult for current scanning equipment to resolve properly. Intaglio printing, where thick ink lends a raised surface to the print surface, is difficult to reproduce cheaply.
  • The foil images are distinctly different for each denomination. In addition to the denomination numeral, a main pattern, Shield (50,000), drums (20,000), and pots (10,000) can be seen clearly. Moving lines around the main pattern change in a different manner on tilting the note side to side.
  • Colour Change Image (OVI)- This feature is present on the three lower denominations of 1,000, 2,000 and 5,000. The prominent purple pattern changes to green when the note is tilted.
  • Moving Colour Change image- This feature is present on the three higher denominations. The prominent green pattern contains a bright line that moves when the note is tilted from side to side. In addition, the colour changes from green to blue when the note is tilted away from you.
  • Iridescent Band- Moving the note around shows a hidden shiny stripe pattern at the back of all banknotes. The pattern reflects the mat pattern on the note with letters BOU and the denomination figure.
  • See through feature- Each denomination has a bold see through placed on the top right hand side near the denomination. All of the see through features are based on different Ugandan cultural images. Different parts of the image are visible on the front and reverse. When the note is held up the light, a combined image is formed with the front and back in perfect register. 

What you should do when receiving a banknote

  • Study the various security features built into our banknotes;
  • Make a habit of checking the banknotes you receive for these features; and don’t hesitate or feel embarrassed about holding a banknote up to the light and feeling for intaglio printing.
  • If anyone does get upset, explain that there’s nothing personal involved and that it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep an eye open for forgeries. And don’t get upset when others check the money you’re handing them either!
  • In the unlikely event that you’ve been handed a forgery, don’t accept it. Simply alert the person to the fact and get the banknote replaced. Then check it too!
  • If you’re in a bank, insist on the manager (and the police) being called. And if you’ve received the money from a customer at work, call the police immediately. Under no circumstances, try to be a hero! Just get the banknote replaced, leave and report the matter to the police.

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