Paper Money

São Tomé and Príncipe reverts to cotton for new bank notes

The Central Bank of São Tomé and Príncipe is issuing new bank notes, all printed on cotton paper rather than on the polymer used for the current generation of notes. Shown is the 200-dobra note, which has an entirely new design.

Image courtesy of the Central Bank of São Tomé and Príncipe.

São Tomé and Príncipe, a Portuguese-speaking island nation off the western coast of equatorial Africa, issued three new bank notes on Aug. 26 — a 5-dobra note, a 10-dobra note, and a 200-dobra note.

In a switch from the recent norm, the country’s central bank is switching from polymer back to cotton as a substrate. The reason, the bank said in a statement, was that the 5- and 10-dobra notes in particular suffered from too much wear and tear, including to the security elements on the notes, from the island’s climate, in which the average temperature is never below 81 degrees and the relative humidity is always above 77%.

The new 5- and 10-dobra notes retain the different species of wildlife in the design of the notes they are replacing, but have no transparent window. The polymer versions will be gradually withdrawn over the next two years.

The 200-dobra note is an entirely new design. The previous 200-dobra note was withdrawn in June 2019, when the official news agency STP-Press says the central bank’s board of directors advised the government to withdraw the notes from the market, for “serious technical failures,” and “due to irregularities that compromised the credibility and security of the national financial system,” adding that the recommendation was not political. Other sources say the reason for the action was the illegal export of the notes by the administration then in power.

Since January 2010, under a financial cooperation agreement with Portugal in which the former colonial ruler provided up to €25 million in aid, the dobra was linked to the euro at the rate 24.5 dobra per euro. In a January 2018 monetary reform, three zeroes were lopped off the dobra, with for example, 5,000 dobras becoming 5 dobras.

Currently, there are about 20 dobras to a U.S. dollar.

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