If you are thinking of traveling or sending money to Senegal, it’s helpful to understand the currency in use there and in the surrounding region. 

What is the first thing you might want to know? Beyond the borders of Senegal, other places also use the Senegal West African CFA franc. 

Read on to find out more on this and other fascinating facts about this West African money.

WAEMU and the West African CFA Franc

Currency blocs mean that several nations in a region use the same currency (such as the European Union.) This allows travel to and from those nations without the need to exchange currency. 

This can be quite beneficial in places where cash is more commonly used than credit.

The West African CFA franc is part of a currency bloc. The Senegal West African CFA franc is the currency used not only in Senegal, but also in seven other West African states: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, and Togo. 

These eight states are members of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), with a combined population of more than 100 million people and spending power of over $78 billion dollars as of 2018

Central Bank of West African States issued and regulates the West African CFA franc. This bank is referred to as BCEAO, which stands for Banque Centrale des États de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, and is located in Dakar, Senegal.

West African CFA Franc Denominations

The West African CFA franc comes in many denominations, including coins and notes. 

Each franc is subdivided into 100 centimes, but no centime denominations are used. There have been many updates to the coins and notes issued over the years. 

Here’s a brief overview of XOF coins and banknotes:

Coins:

  • Since 1948, 1- and 2-franc coins have been available.
  • Since 1956, there have also been 5-, 10-, and 25-franc coins.
  • Starting in 1967, the 100-franc coin became available.
  • In 2003, both 200- and 500-franc coins began circulating.

Banknotes:

  • The BCEAO originally issued notes in denominations of 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 1000 francs.
  • In 1946, a 500-franc note also joined the mix.
  • A 5000-franc note became available in 1948.
  • Since the issuance of the 200- and 500-franc coins noted above in 2003, however, fewer of the smaller denomination notes are in use. The 50-franc note was last issued in 1959, for example, and 100-franc notes have not been issued since 1965.
  • A 10,000-franc note has been available since 1977.
  • A 2,500-franc note has been available since 1992.
  • Since 2004, there have also been new issuances of 1000, 2000, 5000, and 10000 francs with updates made to the look of the currency itself.

On currency exchanges, the West African CFA franc has a code of XOF. 

This is a fixed currency—it has a fixed exchange rate with the euro, set at 655.957 CFA francs = 1 euro.

5 Facts About the Senegal West African CFA Franc (XOF)

1. Its name has colonial roots.

Except Guinea-Bissau, the rest of the member states of the WAEMU were previously colonies of France

“CFA” originally stood for “Colonies francaises d’Afrique,” which translates to “French Colonies in Africa.” 

Now, however, the acronym “CFA” stands for Communauté Financière Africaine, which means “African Financial Community.”

2. The CFA franc is another monetary bloc’s currency tool.

There’s another currency commonly called the CFA franc as well. It’s the Central African CFA franc. 

While of equal value to the West African CFA franc, they’re separate currencies. The Central African Economic and Monetary Union (CAEMC) is the other currency bloc using this currency name

They have also replaced the CFA in CFA franc, this time to “Coopération Financière en Afrique Centrale,” which translates to “Financial Cooperation in Central Africa.” 

3. The Eco may replace CFA franc.

There’s a new currency under consideration for the area. This currency is called the Eco. 

Originally, West Africa’s eight-nation monetary union proposed that the Eco become the common currency in the region by 2020, but that did not transpire due to the global pandemic

However, it’s still under consideration as a replacement currency in the coming years in order to reduce France’s role in the currency.

4. CFA franc was intentionally devalued in 1994.

There was a 50% devaluation of the fixed exchange rate between the French franc and the CFA franc in 1994. This was done to help the region’s exports. 

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the fixed exchange rate at the time was high enough that it made their goods appear to be priced too high, which limits export growth.

The devaluation brought the exchange rate at the time to 1 French franc equaling 100 CFA francs, which is in alignment with today’s fixed exchange rate with the euro.

5. The newest francs have enhanced security.

The more recent update of notes in 2004, which saw the introduction of 1000, 2000-, 5000-, and 10000-franc notes, also included new enhanced security features. 

They’re more difficult to copy, which can help to reduce the incidences of counterfeit bills in circulation. The new notes were also issued because the old ones had a reputation for carrying diseases—true story.

Understanding Senegal West African CFA Franc Currency Exchange Rates

When sending or exchanging money to or from Senegal or other West African member states using the West African CFA franc, it’s important to understand how the exchange rate works.

For this particular currency, there is a fixed exchange rate between the West African CFA franc and the euro. That means it does not fluctuate on the open market as some currencies do. A fixed exchange rate is designed to create more certainty for exporters and importers, in part.

At the time of this writing, the XOF exchange rate on Remitly is 648.02 CFA francs to 1 euro.

Sending Money to Senegal

Any time you’re sending money to Senegal, Remitly can help. Visit our site or download the app, and we’ll show you how to get started. 

Remitly makes international money transfers faster, easier, more transparent, and more affordable. Our reliable and easy-to-use mobile app is trusted by over 3 million people around the world. 

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