Money in Somalia


Money is a funny thing. It is not real and yet it makes the world go around. Many people struggle with the idea that money is not real. But all you have to do is visit a failed economy to see just how money is something of our imagination.

These are 500 Shilin notes and they are the only type of Somali currency that had any value when I was there. Anything below a 500 note was completely worthless. But the 500s where barely worth anything. At checkpoints we would search vehicles and when we’d come across someone who actually had money they would have a lot of it. Like a trunk full. Not because they were rich but because it took so much to amount to anything.

I remember once in a village I expressed interest in the smaller bills and coins by asking the children where to get some. The group of kids took off running and quickly returned with all sorts of bills and coins eager to give them to me in trade for candy. At some point I’ll be scanning and blogging that money as well.

Check out Planet Money’s story on The Island of Stone Money for further thoughts on “what is money?”



P.S. Please keep the people of Somalia in your thoughts and prayers as the Horn of Africa once again experiences famine. If there was a plane I could get on to go try and help once again I would. Here is an article on CNN in case you’ve missed it:

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