9 African Countries With Stronger Currencies Than The Rand

South African Rands on a world map

The Rand has had a lot of flack for its devaluation over the past couple of years. I already wrote about a few countries worse off than us, so now let’s take a look at the other end of the spectrum: African countries who’s currencies are stronger than ours. Now before you feel the urge to launch into a News24-comments-section-style-SA-self-loathing tirade, check out the reasons listed in the description of each, many of them have little merit to their strength.

Botswanan Pula – R1.20

An obvious one is Botswana. The Pula has been stronger than the Rand for some years now and the country’s economy and political structure is often lauded as a shining example of how an African democracy can work. 1 Pula will cost you around R1.20, though this is not as bad as it was in around 2004 where it would have have cost you 20 cents extra.

Egyptian Pound – R1.50

Another example which has long been stronger than the Rand, Egypt, despite all its political turmoil has been able to retain a lot of its country’s currency value. 1 Egyptian Pound will cost you around R1.50.

Libyan Dinar – R8.53

Yet another country in political turmoil with a strong currency is Libya. Perhaps it’s oil which is keeping things afloat but one Libyan Dinar will set you back around R8.53 currently, making it the strongest currency in Africa.

Tunisia Dinar – R6.65

Recovering from its status as the birthplace of the Arab Spring, Tunisia’s Dinar gained almost 20% against the Rand this year. One Tunisian Dinar will now cost you around R6.65.

Moroccan Dirham – R1.29

Rubbing shoulders with Europe, Morocco is in the news as much for illegal immigrants trying to smash down the border is shares with Spain as it is for its exotic culture and beautiful scenery. Morocco’s currency wasn’t always as strong against the Rand, in fact it was as recently at October 2012 when the Rand was more valuable. 1 Moroccan Dirham will cost you R1.29 currently.

Ghanaian Cedi – R3.79

A very surprising example of a strong African currency, Ghana’s Cedi. Ghana is well known for its extensive natural resources, namely Gold from it’s Ashanti region (hence the Anglo-Ashanti gold company famous in South Africa). This one is actually a cheat though, the Cedi is actually in its 3rd rendition under the same name as the currency has been revalued a couple of times. The most recent revaluation was 2007 and it’s lost almost 50% of it’s value against the Rand since then, so the current rate of R3.79 for 1 Cedi shouldn’t last long.

Sudanese Pound – R1.85

Another story very similar to the Ghanaian one is that of the Sudanese Pound. Revalued successively during its post-colonial period, the most recent revaluation came in 2011 following the independence of the oil rich Southern half of the country which became South Sudan. The Sudanese Pound is now worth R1.85, but likely not for long.

Eritrean Nakfa – R1.01

A country you probably haven’t heard from before, it split from Ethiopia in the early 90’s but has a currency, roughly on the same value as ours. This is only a recent development though since the beginning of 2014 and is as a result of the currency being pegged to the US Dollar. 1 Nakfa will cost you R1.01.

Zambian Kwacha – R1.73

The country formally known as the colony of Northern Rhodesia has sadly never been known as an economic success story and at a stage had an exchange rate of 1 US Dollar = 5120 Kwacha. The currency was revalued in January 2013 and until recently 1 Kwacha cost over R2, today 1 Kwacha buys you only R1.73.

Our Readers Comments

  1. Nick, I think you should look up the definition of what it is that makes a currency ‘strong’. Given your argument above, the Rand is ‘stronger’ than the Japanese Yen (about 9.5 Yen per Rand).

    • ‘Purchasing Power Parity’ is probably another concept worth reading up on

    • Good point Finance101, that could be a good topic for a future post. Really here what I was interested in was that so many people make such a big deal out of the value of the Rand and kick up such a stink about it, when the reasons behind the supposed “strength” of the other currencies shows that this really doesn’t mean much at all. Revaluing a currency 3 times which results in it being more valuable than the Rand doesn’t mean much, especially when inflation etc is sending your economy and currency value up sh*t creek. All in all, we have it a lot better here than (almost?) every country in the list above.

    • The only meaningful comparison is where you compare the cost of the average earner’s basket of purchasses in each of the countries and apply a correction factor
      another useful measure is to calculate that cost as a percentage of that group’s average earnings to give an indication of their standard of living

  2. There are no illuminating reasons given for the strength of their currencies. Not informative at all.

    • You guys are complicating this issue. Currency is an item on its own and is sold to those who want it. The demand of currency gives it value. yes there are a lot of other factors mentioned above, but all of these, will either give rise or downfall of demand for the currency. it is not just a single factor, but all of the factors affect demand and supply of the currency. Travellers, investors who want to invest in the country etc to name a few buyers of currency. So yes most stable oil producing economies will attract investors who will by currency more than Gold and diamond.

  3. Just because a value is placed on a currency doesn’t necessarily change its value. For example the Zambian Kwatcha is the value it is after they remodelled the currency and took a fair few zeros off the end of the large number. This I found out after travelling there about a year or so ago.

  4. Nick you clearly haven’t been to any of the countries in the list above. Have it better in what sense, when SA has now the 2nd strongest economy in Africa after Nigeria but still the largest rich-poor gap in the world??? The people using those currencies at least don’t experience the depths of poverty experienced in South Africa. They clearly have better value for money, not only in currency but in quality of living standards. Even countries with weaker currencies experience far better living standards. Rand is nothing to ride home about.

    • Hi Sarah, you caught me out! No, I haven’t been to any of these countries. The purpose of this post was to highlight that the strength of a currency really doesn’t tell us much about the strength of a country’s economy. South Africans love to hate the Rand, constantly moaning about how weak it is and that they can’t travel on it. I wanted to point out that yes, there are African countries with stronger currencies but many of them don’t have merit for having a stronger currency. Perhaps I could have focussed more on the actual differences between the countries but it would have for a very long read. Perhaps an idea for next time.

  5. What make a currency strong? We have minerals in SA but our currency keep dropping. Libya was in political turmoil yet their currency is still stable

  6. Visit some of these countries and find how the majority are better economically empowered than the majority in SA. It is then you realize who is really in the ‘Dark’

    • I still cling to my SA rather than go and conduct a physical investigation of the condition of African economy. I think life is better and more enjoyable under the Rand umbrella than anywhere in this dark continent. Currency strength should be meassured by how that currency whether politically or religiously accommodates and tolerates diversity. If christians are abducted and forced into other forms of religion, left wing political activists are bombed and tortured, and so on goes the rest of African tales, then the strenght of the currency boasted about discourages foreign investment which to some degree promotes real economic growth. In my view, SA Rand is much stronger than any of the 9 mentioned above.

  7. I am a Zambian citizen,have stayed in South africa for two years,the level of poverty is to high than in my country or botswana,southafrica is only known for its historical people outside they think like its a country of full of opoturnity to if you came here that’s when you realise that your country is better than these place.I support nick zambian curency is more powerful than rand the only thing you can came and to in southafrica is to buy goods cause they are more cheap than in my country if I go and sell their I make more profit. Zawa

    • I travel to Zambia often , so many things wrong there although I must admit there has been some improvements but surely can’t compare to SA , infrastructure is lagging behind by decades , per capita is abysmal , economy is largely informal natural remnants of severe dererioration over many years , unemployment is high , corruption evident just as SA does but to even think anything is better about living in Zambia , the currency has benefited from revaluation , lord know if it can be sustained . I live in SA not from SA but I love SA ,

  8. I am a Zambian citizen,have stayed in South africa for two years,the level of poverty is to high in southafrica than Zambia, southafrica is only known for its historical people outside they think like its a country of full of opoturnity but if you came here that’s when you realise that your country is better than southafrica.I support nick zambian curency is more powerful than rand the only thing you can came and do in southafrica is to buy goods and go and sell them in your country cause they are cheap,if I go and sell in Zambia I make more profit. Zawa

  9. hi ken phiri kazawara, you are really funny lol. You claim to think zambia is better than south africa yes? Would you explain why we get people from your country and other african countries everywhere in the streets of south africa? We are the best place to live in, in south africa i tell you mate! I don’t think there is any african country that would say they have alot of south africans trying to make a living there. Guess that explains which country is of best preference yes?

    • strange enough our brothers from the the african continent are floking down to our country yet claiming their currency being strong , if that so why cant they stay in their countries

    • Hi Mxolisi you are wrong there mate Botswana is much much better.though in Botswana Batswana are nearly 2.2 million and half a million are foreigners mostly from South Africa,Nigeria,Zimbabwe……Batswana don’t walk the streets just visit Gaborone.

    • MX I agree with you , nothing the guy says is fact , I’m not from SA but travel into the region and across Africa a lot , currency values mean nothing at all , standard of living and basic access to services has a greater impact and SA particularly shines in that area , yes there is abject poverty in some sectors but . even that level outperforms poverty levels in most African countries … Some of the comments made rather uninformed and quite frankly unnecessary

  10. a billion Rand budget which is 10 times bigger than that of Zambia tells of how powerful our economy is…u budget on what u make….so all others can spew bile about their currencies being strong but Rand is still up there…

  11. We have to try our best concerning our currency

  12. I ‘ve been to most countries in Africa, including the ones listed above. Honestly speaking, life in South Africa is far much better as compared to any of the African countries… including Nigeria! South Africans keep complaining but they have no idea that they are far much better than any African nation out there, as most countries still have most of their citizens living below the poverty line. The value of a currency really means nothing.

    One important factor to look at is not only the so-called “buying power”, but also something economists call “GDP per Capita”. I am not an economist but I can attempt to elaborate GDP per Capita as the average amount of money that a country can equally share among its citizens. Nigeria was recently declared Africa’s strongest economy, reposition South Africa and the second. But how do these two nations’ GDP per Capita display themselves?

    For a broader understanding of this GDP per Capita concept, I can explain it using an analogy: Mr. Nickelson, a polygamist of 3 wives and 21 children has a 5 hectare farm that can produce 50 tons of grain every year. Another family of 3 children fathered by Mr. Courtes with only one wife, has only a 2-hectare-sized farm that can only produce 20 tons of grain per year.

    Looking at the above, we lack no doubt that Mr. Nickelson has a bigger grain reserve than Mr. Courtes. However, looking at the sizes of the 2 families, we see that Mr. Nickelson can give only 2 tons of grain to each of his wives and children, whereas his friend, Mr. Courtes, can have himself, his wife and children load 4 tons each!

    Now back to our GDP per Capita concept, Nigeria has a population of 160 million with a total economy of USD580 billion, and South Africa has a population of 56 million with an economy valued at USD350 billion. Now with the amount of money that Nigeria has, each citizen can equally have USD3,625.00, and South Africa can give to each and every citizen in Mzantsi, an amount equivalent to USD6,250.00 – almost double that a Nigerian can claim!

    Then, a new question now arises: what effect does the value of a currency has to the economy, and what effect does an economy have to a nation?

    Only after we have answers to the above question shall we understand the spectrum of economics.

  13. Those that are saying the Kwacha is weaker than the rand. Try knock of a few zeros off the zip dollar and see if the zip dollar will be equally strong. The zambian Kwacha is the only currency that has once been stronger than the British pound. And is one of the most improving currency even after a few changes have caused our economy to be challenged. Other than that we are getting there. Most south African stores are now flooding our malls cause of the currency here. You sell clothes at an exact exchange rate example R450=k450 and yet the kwacha is double the value hence profitable to you. South Africa rand R100=k60=$10.

  14. All the above African countries have much smaller economies than South Africa. Most of them are basically poor countries compared to S.A. How is it that the S.A Rand is much weaker than their currencies. It just makes no sense. What’s pulling the Rand down! Is it the incompetence of our government or bad economic growth? I think it’s both but still it’s rather strange that the Rand is weaker then the currencies of the countries mentioned. Can someone please explain!!!


  16. Interesting read , completely take on board the point referring to per capita and currency , there is an obvious mutual exclusivity between these elements , stronger currency givesnothing for a better standard of living , I’ve been to many African countries and certainly currency value simply is a mere number and generally has no meaning whatsoever to those living in that country . SA has definitel

  17. how strong is Botswana economy. I love this country so much just because of how peaceful n stable their political history is. I wanna know

    • Hi Cornelius,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      The current Rate of exchange is: BWP1 = R1.26, so the Botswana Pula is still stronger then the Rand.

      The Pula has been stronger than the Rand for some years now and the country’s economy and political structure is often lauded as a shining example of how an African democracy can work.

      I found the following info which is pretty interesting:

      Since independence, Botswana has had the highest average economic growth rate in the world, averaging about 9% per year from 1966 to 1999. Growth in private sector employment has averaged about 10% per annum over the first 30 years of independence. At the start of the 21st century, however, the economy of Botswana stagnated up until the early 2010s when it registered for the first time since the economic boom a GDP growth up above the 6-7% target. Botswana is also commended for the site of Africa’s longest and among the world’s longest economic booms (which almost surpassed that in Asia’s largest economies). The relatively high quality of the country’s statistics means that these figures are likely to be quite accurate. The government has consistently maintained budget surpluses and has extensive foreign exchange reserves.

      Botswana’s impressive economic record has been built on a foundation of diamond mining, prudent fiscal policies, international financial and technical assistance, and a cautious foreign policy. It is rated the least corrupt country in Africa, according to international corruption watchdog, Transparency International. By one estimate, it has the fourth highest gross national income at purchasing power parity in Africa, giving it a standard of living around that of Mexico and Turkey.


  18. If SA is bad in a sense of poverty, why all these people from other african countries with strong currencies leave their strong currency countries and decide to come to South Africa where they say poverty is like breathing in and out? Why Woman of Neighbouring cross boarders illigally just to get best medical service for their pregnancy and want their kids to be born in south africa so that they can have full citizen rights? Because SA is the best in africa.

  19. currencies mean nothing an south africa is the best country with the best economy ,just that nw we r strugling a little bit because of china s economy ,remember china is the only country that purchase most of our products

  20. you quite ryt thre,,
    the truth hurts I knw,
    bt the matr pf fact is dat South.A
    has lots of reasons to be the strongest currency, but u being unfair to urselves smehow,
    u supply almost evrythng to the countries above, bt thy gat value more than u,
    hws dat??
    counter check ya economy

  21. everybody knows in africa that sa is the best in the whole of africa. no any country maybe except botswana can compete with sa. nigerians, ghananias, mozambicans, zimbabwens, zambians, malawians, etc. they are here. why? sa is a land of opportunity for them sa well.

    • Hi Wallace,

      Very true, South Africa is a land of opportunity.

      Beautiful country we live in 🙂

  22. People here have very little information about countries. i have stayed in most southern african countries, exept few like angola, swaziland, mozambique. I have been to south africa, zimbabwe, malawi, zambia, nambia, botswana, just to mention a few. south africa is the most industrialized and good infastracture, that does not mean its economy is the best, if you look at there budget, yes its big but its not catering every person in there country, south africa was good years back, but now things are failing. there so many south african in other countries including zimbabwe, botswana, nambia and zambia. so you guys are you telling we are should chase them out. its be reasonable when are taliking about other countries.
    botswana is good and stable but for the past few years the counrty standards are going down. its not that peaceful. the media is highly sensered. there is so much crime but you will never see it in the paper, just a few stories here and there.
    zambia is there another with the only problem being political leaders and corruption, mind you south africa is worse then zambia when it comes to corruption. but the country is growing faster then almost all the countries in the southern africa. zambia made sure that each and every country in africa is independent. there so many south africans, zimbabwens, congoless, malawins, angolans. rwandess, and many other africans, european and asians, but you will never hear this country go to the streets to burn people alive. thats how peacefull that country is.
    zimbabwe is good there only problem is the leadership. but the crime rate has gone up.
    so when you are comparing the countries without visting and staying there, you might think your country is the best, but in the real world others are better then yours. having your country being well advertisered does not mean its the best. the other thing you need to look at is the budgeting balancing with the population and economy. every party of this africa is the same. africa is africa every single part of it.
    dont lough at other countries yours might be worse.
    good day every. we are all africans.

  23. I see!! Interesting comments! I live in SA from west Africa. Facts are facts! The are many opportunities and riches in south Africa but…hey! Poverty in SA is toooo bad as compared to west Africa! Amongst the rural blacks in SA is in eye sore! Probably as Bible has “With knowledge you have riches”! No one can be rich in absolute ignorance and that is perishing black south Africans in the land of honey and milk!

  24. I will like to vist zambian to how is standard of living or botwanan

    • Hi Nwobodo,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      Living standards in Botswana are high by African standards, but vary considerably across the country.

      As in many countries, there are widely different standards of living in Botswana between the rich and poor.

      I’ve found the following on the internet which mentions some interesting facts you welcome to read through this.


  25. Having good infrastructure is not an indicator of a county’s economic strength and that’s the mistake most black South Africans make.

    The South African rand has fallen and the economy is at the brink of total collapse. There’s no African country that is growing at 0.8% like South Africa, so that tells you a lot. The myth of South Africa being the best in the continent is what fuels xenophobia by black South Africans who after 21 years have forgotten how full they were in our countries. Corruption and education here are also among the worst in Africa. South Africans should just accept that the spotlight has passed to other countries.

  26. I think we should separate the issues on here. If we want to discuss or compare any African country to SA we should make a distinction. Yes the South African Rand has fallen compared to the countries in question but it is not true to say those countries are better than SA. SA is far much better than some countries on the list and this can be seen from the citizens flocking to SA for greener pastures. SA is better many ways except they have most likely the highest crime rate still!

  27. Interesting conversation about African countries, their currencies and standard of living. At times it is good for a currency to be weak, as long as this leads to more production, tourism and further investments. Most of the countries in Africa have Government controlled currencies with the result that investors can’t get their returns out of the countries concerned. They cannot even use the money to buy stock from abroad. Nigeria, Angola, Ghana etc. Long term this becomes a problem, investors pull out. South Africa however has a free market economy (value of the rand is determined by what we sell and what we buy that includes stock market products). At the moment the rand is weak because (1) There is a general risk associated with third world countries. (2) There is a general mismanagement of the economy by Government, that includes finance minister Nene’s removal. (3) The huge imports of food due to draught. (4) The general depreciation of our minerals due to weak demand from China. Most of the above reasons are temporal, so we don’t need to panic. A correction is coming soon as long as we continue producing and we attract direct foreign investments. Zuma is not going to rule for ever(at least the constitution does not allow him to do so), if he does we are doom. With regards to whether South Africa is worse than the other 9 countries with stronger currencies, I don’t think so except for Botswana maybe(because they have few people) but we still have better road infrastructure, better universities, better manufacturing sector(they buy most of their products from South Africa). I have been to all the countries mentioned above except Egypt). Non of them can economically match the South African economy. Even the gap between the rich and poor is compensated by the fact that in SA there is Old age grant, children grant, which is non existant in the rest of Africa. It makes a difference, just that it might also be the reason why some rural communities have stopped subsistence farming. I have travelled most of Africa and I spent 5 years in Cuba and 1 year in Germany. Those talk of Zambia being better have only been to rich sections of cities. You can find people using charcoal for cooking in some townships of Livingston.

  28. I get you guys all of your right and wrong. What I want to know is,is it possible to have one Afro currency,and one Afro travelling document ? So we can be a one united Africa!

  29. Well they can say whatever they want to, but they have now crowded mzansi yet the claim to be better than us. One day we will have an intelligent president and all this nonsense will stop. We love you africans outside RSA even though you are mocking us. mxm

  30. South Africa is a type of United States of America in Africa.I am a Nigerian,but there is something about South Africa that makes it stand out as the best in Africa.”IT IS THE LAND OF GREAT OPPORTUNITIES”

  31. 2 years ago, I commended here regarding SA economy. Many here you had to argue with me. I was in SA 3 months ago, SA economy as gone even more down.

    The prices of goods have risen so much, the Rand is losing its value to a dollar.

    The country is facing electricity shortage that, their is an increase of load shedding, now after all your commenting regarding praising SA, are you aware that we are supplying you electricity. Zambia still stands with a strong currency to US dollar. Zambian kwacha today is buying $1 at K7 to 9. While rand is buying $1 at R14 to R16, now who is better?

    Never argue from something you don’t understand education is important, the level of illiteracy is to high in SA, thus only few understands this issues. Ba mfwetu somuchela Mzansi yapelile manje, zonke izinto zapelile, muyashonepa.

    Ken Phiri

    • Infrastructure in south africa is okey but poverty their is second to non.Many west african came with high hope,but they were caught by poverty beyond their imagination”but going back home is not as easy as you think.Strong currency and economy is nothing with out improving the livies of the people.

    • The rand is picking up buddy. Have you been watching the news?

Have something to say...