The Banknotes of Mozambique

The New Metical Issues – 2006 and 2011

Peter Symes

In Mozambique during the late 1990s and early 2000s, inflation saw the need to introduce higher and higher denomination notes. Initially issued in 1991[1], the series in circulation at the turn of the century commenced with denominations of 500, 1000, 5000, and 10,000 meticais, but by 2003 notes denominated 200,000 and 500,000 meticais had entered circulation. Recognizing the need to make a change, the Bank of Mozambique and the government of Mozambique launched a program to introduce the New Metical.

Initiating the Change

Under Law Number 07/2005 of 20 December 2005, all necessary procedures were promulgated for the introduction of the New Metical and various notices issued by the bank supported the introduction of the new currency; including the Government’s Decree 55/2005, of December 27th and the Governor’s Notice 14/2005[2], of December 28th. From early 2006 the Bank of Mozambique commenced a program of informing the public and national institutions of why and how the conversion would be undertaken, leading to new banknotes issued from 1 July 2006.

In much the same way as the need for higher denomination notes had previously been announced over many years, the word ‘inflation’ was never used, but the Bank spoke of the need to ‘Respond to the constraints that have been occurring as a result of increased costs of the production factors and consequently the general level of prices that accompanied the structural adjustments …’[3] Additionally, the need to increase the security of the currency was cited as a factor in the introduction of new banknotes, or perhaps it was just an opportunity, which could be adopted at this time; thus, the Bank of Mozambique ‘must provide the national community with banknotes and coins of good quality and secure against counterfeiting observing the best security and commodity conditions.’[4]

Despite the circumspect manner in which the change was identified as a necessity, the Bank gave some very practical reasons for making the change:

In essence, the conversion consisted of two parts: first, the introduction of the New Metical (MTN), where 1000 MT (i.e. the old metical) equalled 1 MTN; and second, the introduction of a new series of banknotes. On 1 January 2006, Law 7/2005 came into effect and from this date it was optional for merchants to show prices in the new and old currencies. From 31 March 2006, the display of prices in the new and old currencies was mandatory.

Until 30 June 2006 all bank accounts were in the old metical; but next morning, on 1 July 2006, all bank accounts were opened in the New Metical (MTN). This was the effective start of the conversion of the currency and also the date on which the new banknotes were introduced into circulation. The new and old notes circulated simultaneously from this date.

In support of the conversion to the New Metical and the introduction of the new banknotes, a multi-media advertising campaign was run, which encompassed national radio, community radios, written media, television, and the distribution of posters, leaflets, and a booklet of questions and answers relating to the conversion. In addition, plans were made for lectures, and radio and television debates. People were also directed to a free telephone service, the web site of the Bank of Mozambique and an email address to where they could submit queries.

The old banknotes remained in circulation for six months, until 31 December 2006, after which they lost their legal tender status. This date also saw the end of the need to mark prices in the two currencies. From 1 January 2007, the use of MTN and reference to the ‘New Metical’ ceased and currency was henceforward known as the ‘metical’ and the designator MT was again used for the currency. The old currency could be changed at banks during the latter half 2007, but from the start of 2008 until the end of 2012 the old notes could only be changed at the Bank of Mozambique. After this period the old notes were effectively demonetized and could no longer be exchanged.

This schedule of removing the old metical from circulation was not strictly adhered to. During March and April 2007 prices were still being displayed in the old and new metical, although this was no longer required under the program for change. Certainly, in parts of Mozambique, the old metical was still being used in commerce during March and April 2007, and possibly quite a while longer. As the old metical notes could be exchanged at the banks during 2007, there was no urgency for people to stop using them, even though they had lost their legal tender status from 1 January 2007.[6]

The Banknotes

Despite the banknotes bearing the date 16 June 2006, the new series of banknotes (and coins) was introduced on the first of July 2006. The date printed on the notes – 16 June 2006 – is the anniversary of the massacre at Mueda and this date (16 June) has been used on most banknotes issued in independent Mozambique.[7]

With one new metical equal to 1,000 old meticais, the new banknotes were in the denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 meticais. The banknotes of the new series have many common characteristics. First, there is a portrait of Samora Moises Machel, the first president of Mozambique, dominating the front of each note, at the centre left; and Machel is also depicted in the watermark (see Figure 1). Second, each note has a security thread, with the denomination of the note and the letters ‘BM’ (for Banco de Moçambique) appearing in clear text. The thread appears to weave through the paper, surfacing on the front of the note, except for the 1000-metical note where it appears to surface on the back of the note. Third, there is a perfect registration device at the far right, possibly representing a shield. Finally, there are numerous fluorescent features on each note, often in interesting variations. For instance, a block of ink with the denomination in numerals appears in different locations on each denomination, and the security thread fluoresces in a different colour on each note.

The serial numbers for this series of notes follow a similar pattern to the earlier issues of the Bank of Mozambique. Each serial number consists of two letters followed by seven numerals. The first letter of each serial number indicates the denomination as:

On the front of the notes the common characteristics are:

On the back, the notes have the following common characteristics:

Note-specific details are as follows.

1,000 meticais
See Figure 2

500 meticais
See Figure 3

200 meticais
See Figure 4

100 meticais
See Figure 5

50 meticais
See Figure 6

20 meticais
See Figure 7

It is apparent the six banknotes of this series are prepared by two printers. The 20-, 200- and 500-metical notes are printed by De La Rue and the 50-, 100- and 1,000-metical notes are manufactured by another, unidentified, printer. De La Rue are identified as the manufacturer of the three notes noted above, because of the tell-tale hexagonal pattern, a signature of De La Rue, used on the back of the three notes (see Figure 8).

Some of the differences in the two sets of three notes are:

Other differences are apparent with careful observation, such as the font used in the security thread and the pattern below the animals in the illustrations on the back of the notes – the De La Rue notes have a pattern under an arc, whereas the notes by the other printer do not. The font used for the serial numbers is very similar between the two printers and it is very difficult to identify any significant differences (although the author was unable to compare every numeral). The tell-tale difference is the numeral ‘5’, where the horizontal bar at the top of the ‘5’ has a clean vertical line at the right-hand end on the De La Rue notes, but the other printer has an angled end to the bar – sloping from the top right to the bottom left (see Figure 11).

The 2011 Issue – The Introduction of Polymer

In 2011, five years after the introduction of the New Metical, an updated issue of this series of notes was introduced. According to the Bank of Mozambique, the reason for the change was the necessity ‘to adapt the characteristics of the metical notes the requirements of the current stage of development of the national payment system and the progress made in the technologies of production, the structure of the same now has, in addition to those made on the basis of conventional material (paper), with notes on synthetic substrate (polymer).’[8] Only the 20-, 50- and 100-metical notes were introduced in polymer, due to their high level of wear and heavy use in circulation. In a speech on 16 June 2011, the Governor of the Bank stated: ‘By adopting this type of substrate, we expect to reduce significantly the cost of replacing damaged notes. This prolongs the life span of the notes, and we shall be complying with our legal duty to provide the public with good quality bank notes, in the best conditions of security and convenience.’[9]

The higher denomination notes – the 200-, 500- and 1,000-metical notes – were again issued in paper. For the three paper notes, very little has changed from the notes issued in 2006; but there have been changes.

Other than these changes, all other characteristics of the three notes appear as the notes issued in 2006. A single exception occurs on the 1,000-metical note, where the number ‘1000’ is repeated in a triangular varnish in the centre of the note (partially covering the signature). The varnish is identified by the different lustre to the surface of the note. It is assumed the three paper notes are manufactured by the printer of the previous 200-, 500- and 1,000-metical notes dated 2006, but this is not certain.

The notes printed on polymer have many similar characteristics to their paper predecessors, indeed great effort has been taken to replicate the principal designs used on the older paper notes, but the new technology has wrought some significant changes. Apart from the polymer substrate on which the banknotes are printed, the most obvious change is the clear oval in the top left of each denomination, with the value of the note etched in the polymer. To the left and right of the transparent oval are semi-transparent arcs containing the repetition of the denomination, with the arc at the right being more opaque than the transparent arc at the left. On both arcs the denomination of the note is repeated, so as to alternatively be read from the front and the back of the note. A ‘shadow image’ of the head of Samora Machel, imitating a watermark, appears below the transparent oval (see Figure 12).

There are no security threads in the polymer notes and the only other noticeable changes to the design of the front of the notes is the shifting of the dots for the sight impaired to the top of the notes and the vertical serial numbers moved to the extreme left of the notes (not much of a shift for the 20- and 200-metical notes, but a significant shift for the 50-metical note). An interesting single alteration to the design of the 100-metical note is the addition of a device to the right of the date and below the horizontal serial number. In a pattern of chevrons is a ‘half window’, which has properties similar to the arcs to the right of the clear oval windows on the polymer notes. Other minor alterations in the design and colours are discernible.

On the back of the three polymer notes is an iridescent strip, similar to those used on the 20-, 200- and 500-metical notes of the 2006 issue. Because of the clear oval window, the denomination of each note appears only in three of the four corners on the back of the notes.

It is not known when the notes dated 2011 entered circulation. In a speech by Ernesto Gove, the Governor of the Bank of Mozambique, on 16 June 2011, to celebrate the 31st anniversary of the introduction of the metical, he stated the new notes ‘will enter circulation later this year’.[10] The new notes were intended to circulate alongside the older notes introduced in 2006, and so their introduction was to be gradual. However, the Bank of Mozambique Notice No. 3 / GBM / 2011, 22 July[11] states, in Article 8, the notice will take effect from the 1st of October, unless otherwise required. It may be inferred from this comment the notes were intended to be placed in circulation from the 1st of October 2011, but it is not certain the notes were introduced from this date.

The serial numbers follow the same pattern as the 2006-dated notes, but each serial number now has eight numerals, instead of the seven numerals of the 2006-dated notes. Of great interest are the serial number fonts used on the six notes in the 2011 issue. It might be expected the three polymer notes will have the same font for the serial numbers, but this is not the case. The 20- and 100-metical notes use the same font for the serial numbers, but the 50-metical notes use a different font, with slight larger, or at least wider, numerals (see Figure 13). Three numerals to compare in the serial numbers are:

The 200- and 500-metical notes have a larger font for their serial numbers than the above-mentioned polymer notes, but the shape of the font is similar to the 50-metical note. Finally, the 1,000-metical note has a font very similar to the 20-and 100-metical polymer note, but the differences are ever so subtle; as can be observed for the letter ‘A’.

While the use of the serial number fonts aligns much as expected for the paper notes, it is the difference in the fonts used on the polymer notes which is unexpected. While it is not known who printed the polymer notes, it is probable the three polymer notes were printed by a parent company and a subsidiary company at two locations. For instance, some notes may have been printed by Giesecke and Devrient at one of their printing works, and others by BA International (a subsidiary company of Giesecke and Devrient) in Canada. This may account for the two fonts used in the serial numbers on the three notes.

The details of the six notes dated 2011 follow.

1,000 meticais
See Figure 14

500 meticais
See Figure 15

200 meticais
See Figure 16

100 meticais
See Figure 17

50 meticais
See Figure 18

20 meticais
See Figure 19

End Notes

One of the surprising aspects of the notes introduced as the New Metical, is there has been no higher denomination notes introduced since their inception in 2006. Noting how rampant inflation was between 1990 and 2005, the economy of Mozambique has become very stable and higher denominations are as yet unknown. Until there is a change in governor, and the need for a new signature (and this change may not necessitate a change to the banknotes), it is unlikely there will be any need to alter the notes. However, it is tempting to think the three higher denomination notes may yet become polymer notes, if it is determined the introduction of the three lower denominations in polymer is a success.



This article was completed in December 2015
© Peter Symes