Category Archives: Currency

Currencies, types, rates and exchanges

Guinea gold

Guinea as name came from the Berber word ‘akal-n-iguinaouen‘, meaning ‘land of blacks‘; similar to the names Sudan, Azania and Ethiopia’ which all refer to the African dark skin colour. Seventeenth century maps showed  ‘genehoa‘ as a region approximately that of today’s Mauretania and Mali, north of Senegal. However, Guinea was taken as the whole wide region south of the Niger river in West Africa, including today’s Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast.

Because Guinea and Gold Coast were both sources of gold, there is speculation that the two words may be etymologically related. From time immemorial, stories have been told of rich African rulers with huge wealth of gold obtained from the sub-Saharan hinterland, including one Ibn Batussa who took so much gold as gift on his way to Mecca, that the price of gold fell dramatically everywhere he came. The high purity of African gold gave the guinea gold coin a higher value than the English Pound Sterling21 instead of 20 shillings.

Out of colonial European greed,  the association with gold gave Guinea such an appeal that other areas elsewhere in the world also got the name, including New Guinea in the Indies north of Australia in Oceania, former Dutch Guyana (Surinam), and Guinea Bissau west of Liberia and Portuguese Guinea. In south America, there are the French Guyana and British Guyana all named from a corruption of Guinea. The proper Guinea today is the West African country Guinea with Conakry as its capital.

Conakry The capital of Guinea dates from 1884 and was called Konakri by the Susu folk, meaning ‘beyond waters‘ or the other shore; on account of its remote location on the peninsula.

Fouta Djalon This slope in Guinea got its name from the ‘Dialonkepeople. Fouta - Plain in Senegal took the name from the Mande word for ‘plain‘.

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Ashanti Akan Gold

Asante or Ashante or Ashanti in present day republic of Ghana in west Africa started as a union of trading people mostly the Akan, with a large market in Kumasi. Due to their persistent self-identity, they were regarded as a folk by the Europeans after 1700. Their leader sits on the Golden Stool to underpin their power on the gold trade. The high quality of their gold which was coined as the guinea led to a higher value of the guinea than the English pound. Their name Ashanti in fact  means ‘united in war‘, or a fighting union. (see Ghana)

Kumasi town in Ghana was founded in the 17th century by Osei Tutu, an Ashanti chief. The name comes from ‘kum asi‘ and means under the kum tree. It was situated at the location of the one kum seed that grew of the two trees planted by Okomfo Ankoye, the chief’s advisary priest.  (see Ashanti)

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Genoa money trade

Genoa This medieval Ligurian city-state also referred to as the city of Saint George, evolved as a merchant port and city before Venice, and also organised itself as a republic. It minted gold coins before Florence Florin coins came out in 1250, and the Venetian ducat (called zecchino or sequin) was issued by the mint – the Zecca – in Venice in 1284. Its very wealth made it a target of foreign powers who wanted to take it over – French king (1396), Milan’s duke (1462), Spanish rulers (1522), Sardinians (1746), and the Austrians. Like Venice, Genoa lacked the land area to source its own needs. Perched on the narrow plains between the bay and the steep high hills, it imported food, fuel, clothing and essential supplies from outside, filling its narrow streets with a traffic of goods and capital. Its strength was in its strategic location along the sea-trade route, buttressed by the financial creativity of the merchants controlling trade traffic between east and west. Its money of account – the lira di banco – known for its stability, was the forerunner of the Italian lira, before Milan became an industrial centre. Although Genoa beat Venice in a straight battle, its powers as a trade centre went down from 1627.

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