Even as the Central Bank of Kenya unveiled four denominations for Kenya’s new currency coins just late last year, today a lot of traders are rejecting the use of the Sh1 denomination.
A spot check in the counties of Kisii, Homa Bay and Nairobi reveals that small business owners like shopkeepers do not accept use of the Sh1 coin, with only large retailers like Supermarkets allowing its circulation.
In Kisii town, for example, buying one egg would cost Sh12 but two would cost Sh25, instead of Sh24.
At the same time, services in Kisii cyber cafés costs Sh2 per minute. This means that if a user spends 2 minutes then he or she cannot be allowed to pay Sh4 but Sh5.
“Most items sold in this market are priced at a minimum of Sh5. It simply means that the Sh1 coin has lost its value,” said Elija Ombongi, the Kisii Open Air Market chairman.
Another trader in the market, Nathan Nyagwachi observed that: “Sellers here will think that you disrespect them by giving them some One-shilling coins. In fact, you won’t believe the kind of insults that will be hurled at you. It doesn’t matter whether you have many of them.”
However, in so long as the use of the Sh1 coin is not welcome by many, some traders in urban centers still gives in, but on condition that the coins can add up to a solid of either Sh5, Sh10 and Sh20.
But the situation is worse in rural areas where business people accepts nothing in the name of a One-shilling coin.
For instance, shopkeepers in Kanyaluo Ward in Karachuonyo constituency, Homa Bay county gives total rejection to the Sh1 legal tender of the CBK.
“That coin is a waste of time because I am never in the business of making a Sh1 profit. I don’t understand why the government is still interested in printing it,” Victor Owino, a shop owner at Omboga market said.
In Nairobi, Mukuru slum dweller, Rose Mwikali – who often shops at Muindi Mweusi Supermarket -notes that it is even easy for her to accept Sweets from the retailer anytime a one-shilling coin is to be given back as change. Because “I know very well that using it anywhere else will be next to impossible.”
It, therefore, means that the smallest denomination of the coinage that is acceptable in the market is Sh5; a fact that from face value may look insignificant but continues to dent pockets of product consumers unawares.
So is it proper to conclude that the Sh1 coin, which currently weighs 5.5 grams and silvery in colour, has outlived its usefulness?
Kisii University’s Dean School of Business and Economics Prof Christopher Ngacho, who equally admits having lots of the one-shilling coin in his house, has a contrary opinion.
“Whatever is happening is just a misconception by sellers that the shilling has lost its value. As long as the pricing of commodities and the VAT (Value Added Tax) is still done in decimals then there is no way it is going to lose its value,” he said.
Prof Ngacho notes that “the CBK should conduct public education to advise traders that a shilling is not yet devalued. He also says that the regulator should withdraw the coin if it has lost meaning because traders are already forcing it out of the market by putting unnecessary price tags.”
Initially, there existed coins of smaller monetary value such as the 50 cent which were phased out leaving the Sh1 as the smallest currency in the country.
But according to the don, “even the 50 cent is still valuable owing to the fact that VAT is calculated in decimals.”
While unveiling the new generation coinage in 2018, CBK governor Patrick Njoroge said that the new legal tender features Kenya’s rich wildlife heritage – a matter which is in line with the Constitution 2010 that banned the use of presidential portraits on Kenyan currency.
A Sh1 coin dated 2010 has the portrait of the first president ‘Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’ on one side and the Coat of Arms on another whereas the 2018 coin (the latest) has a giraffe on one side and the coat of arms on the other.
While it may appear petty to sue a trader for refusing to accept your coins, Prof Ngacho observes, a Kenyan should actually move to court to seek some legal intervention.
“A person should not sleep hungry after being turned away by a seller, because of being in possession of one-shilling coins,” he told the 47 Reporters.