South Africa Unveils Upgraded Banknotes and Coins Featuring Mandela’s Portrait in Tribute


On May 3, 2023, the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) unveiled upgraded banknotes and coins, featuring enhanced security features and designs, in collaboration with the Nelson Mandela Foundation. The upgraded currency is recognized as legal tender and is expected to enter circulation soon. Although the new design retains familiar elements, it includes new features such as a mini South African flag, micro-lettering of the preamble to the Constitution, and depictions of the “Big 5” as a family, emphasizing the theme of interconnectedness with other living organisms.

The upgraded banknotes are designed to reflect the rich cultural and ecological diversity of South Africa. They retain the “Big Five” animals, a popular feature of the current banknotes, but with a new twist. Rather than depicting the animals in isolation, the notes now feature adult animals and their offspring, highlighting the importance of family and community. Moreover, the banknotes feature changes to their color, with each denomination showcasing different colors to make them easier to differentiate.

To enhance security features, the new banknotes come with state-of-the-art anti-counterfeiting measures, such as watermarks, security threads, and iridescent ink. The coins feature the “Big Five” animals as well, along with a design celebrating the interconnectedness of all living things. The coins also feature the portrait of Nelson Mandela, as a tribute to the late former president of South Africa and anti-apartheid icon.


Overall, the new South African banknotes and coins offer a fresh take on the current design, with added features that reflect the country’s cultural and ecological heritage. With enhanced security features, the new currency aims to combat counterfeiting, while the design changes will help to differentiate between denominations. The South African Reserve Bank’s efforts demonstrate a commitment to innovation and sustainability, while also honoring the legacy of one of the country’s greatest leaders, Nelson Mandela.