Ethiopian Birr

Name of Currency:  Ethiopian Birr
Country / countries used:  Ethiopia
Symbol:  Br
Brief history:  
The Ethiopian birr – after the Nigerian naira – is the most-used currency in Africa with 88 million users.  Birr translates literally as “silver” in Ge’ez and Amharic.  As of 2008 one hundred and eighty six billion birr were in circulation.
The modern birr as exists today was first introduced in 1945, following a brief tenure of the Italian lira and the East African shilling as the country’s currency.  The English text on banknotes refers to the currency as the Ethiopian Dollar.  Each birr is divided into 100 santim (the word coming from the French ‘centime’), with 5, 10, 25 and 50 denominations of santim coins available to use.  Notes are available in 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 birr denominations.
The export of coffee is integral to Ethiopia’s economy – providing approximately 26.4 per cent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings.  A staggering one quarter of the Ethiopian population is dependent upon the trade of coffee for their living.  The Ethiopian economy is in a dire situation; no foreign banks are permitted to operate in the country, youth unemployment is close to 70 per cent, and the country has almost no private sector business.  Hundreds of thousands of jobs must be created year upon year to keep up with the growing population.  Ethiopia still remains one of the world’s poorest countries.
The Ethiopian economy relies upon the agricultural sector to provide almost half of the GDP, 60% of total exports and 80% of total employment.  Such large statistics rely upon agriculture that is under constant stress and challenges that appear in the form of; periodic drought, soil degradation, a growing population density, deforestation and high levels of taxation accompanied by poor infrastructure.  With the economy’s main sector unable to provide reliable produce year on year, it is important that Ethiopia attempts to diversify, which is incredibly difficult for a country that receives 90% of its energy from hydropower, which is reliant upon heavy rainfall.
There has been recent debate with regards to the planning of large tracts of arable land being purchased by countries that import the majority of their food.  Fears have been raised that much-needed food will be exported from developing countries and into more prosperous ones.
For more information on currencies of the world and foreign currency exchange, refer to Best Exchange Rates UK. In addition to information on different currencies, Best Exchange Rates UK has information on market data, private currency exchange and business currency exchange.