The US Dollar to Rand Evolution


To say the South African Rand carries more weight than the currencies of its  African counterparts would be an understatement. The US Dollar to rand value began with a good start in 1961. The current value exchange rate of 1 US Dollar to R14.45 puts the Rand far ahead of its peers.

However, when considering how far the value of the Rand has come since it’s debut, a sigh of exasperation would not be out of the question.

After taking over the South African Pound, the Rand was worth R1.40 against the US Dollar. It maintained this value for a little over two decades until 1982.

The big question here is when did things start heading south for the South African rand?

The Evolution of the Rand

  •  Evolution of Value

After a good premiere, the Rand was able to hold it’s own against the US Dollar till 1982 when the increasing political instability began to affect its value. From then onward, the US dollar to Rand value only continued to erode, reaching an all time low in 2016.

By February of 1985, the Rand was trading at R2 to a dollar. The rand hovered around this currency range – dipping and rising in value – till the early 1990s. The Rand dropped to R3 against the US dollar when it became apparent that the black majority would rule the country. The economy took a hit when the international arena became unsure of how this change would affect the country.

The US Dollar to Rand value took a major hit over the course of the next few years due to the influence certain local and international events had on the currency. The 1994 democratic elections, the 1999 inauguration of Thabo Mbeki and the September 11, 2001 attacks (which affected many countries’ economies) were among the said influential events.

In December 2001, the US Dollar to Rand value was R13.84 per dollar. The rather surprising and frankly unexpected depreciation led to a much needed formal investigation. The end of 2002 saw the rebound of the Rand at R9 value to the dollar and by the end of 2004, the Rand was trading at R5.70 per dollar.

Unfortunately, by the time 2006 rolled around, the steady decline had begun again and is still in progress. At the end of 2014, the Rand was at R15.05 against the dollar. The rand reached it’s all time low in January 2016 at R17.9169 to the dollar after President Zuma’s surprise announcement about replacing Nhlanhla Nene, the then Finance Minister. The Value of the Rand later rebounded to R16.57 that same day.

Till today, the rand has continued to experience a certain volatility that has put South Africans and the International scene on edge.

South African Rand

  • Evolution of Appearance

Introduced in 1961 alongside the bank notes, the coins were released in varying denominations from 1cent to 50 cents. The 5-Rand coin was introduced in 1994, after the 2-Rand coin’s introduction of 1989. However, the appearance of the 5-Rand coin was changed in August 2004 in an effort to eliminate counterfeiting. The new design was bi-metal, similar to that of the British £2 coin, €1 coin and €2 coin.

The new design sported a security groove along the rim which was uniquely serrated, as well as micro-lettering to add to efforts to curb the increasing rate of counterfeiting.

The banknotes introduced in 1961 were in the denominations of 1, 2, 10, and 20 Rand. The carried similar designs to that of the South African Rand which preceded it to ease the transition. The image on the first set of images was believed to be that of Jan Van Riebeeck, the country’s first settler. Amusingly, however, it was eventually discovered that the image was in fact not of Jan Van Riebeeck at all.

jan van riebeeck

Like the Pounds notes that preceded it, the Rand bank notes were printed in two versions – One with Afrikaans written first and the other with English written first.

Eventually, the currency adopted only one version for each denomination. The Afrikaans language came first on the 2 Rand note, the 5 10 and 50 Rand notes too. English came first on both the 5 and 20 Rand notes. The 1 rand note was then replaced by a 1-Rand coin.

Later, in the 1990s, the image on the bank notes was replaced with pictures of the ‘Big five’ wildlife species. Coins eventually replaced the 2 Rand note and the 5 Rand notes, mostly because the old notes were particularly worn down.

In 2005, while the notes remained with the same primary design, additional security measures, like color shifting ink, were added on denominations from 50 Rand and above. In 2010, the R200 notes of the 1994 series had to be pulled from circulation due to the high number of counterfeit versions in circulation.

However, in a stroke of positive news for the currency, in February 2012, President Jacob Zuma announced that an entirely new set of banknotes with Nelson Mandela’s image were going to replace the ones already in circulation. This was put into effect on the 6th of November 2012.

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