Niger West African CFA Franc - XOF
The country of Niger in West Africa is one of a number of countries in the region that uses the West African CFA franc. This has the ISO code XOF to identify it on the currency markets.
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
You will find quite a range of coins available for the West African CFA franc. While there is technically a subunit called the centime, as was the case with the French franc and other versions of it, it does not actually exist in coin form now. Instead all the coins are francs. These range from the 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 franc coins through to the 100, 200, 250 and 500 franc coins.
There are but four banknotes in use here as well. The smallest is the 1,000 franc note while the biggest is the 10,000 franc note. In between you have the 2,000 and 5,000 franc notes as well.
From past to present – the history of the Niger West African CFA franc
The West African CFA franc has been used as the official currency in this part of the world since the 1940s. Several countries adopted it when it first came into being, although there have been a few changes since that time.
Niger was actually one of the countries in this first group to adopt the new franc and it has used it ever since.
How to get hold of the Niger West African CFA franc
The West African CFA franc is one of the more challenging currencies to get hold of, as you will discover if you ever travel to the country. For starters you cannot get it outside of this part of the world since most bureaux de change don’t have it available.
Next up is the reality that there are no cash machines at all in Niger. This might seem hard to believe in the world many of us live in, where there is a cash machine almost within sight wherever you live. However this is the reality in Niger and it is one you need to accept before you go there. Niger has a society that works and trades in cash so your credit cards won’t do you much good either. You might find the odd large establishment that would take a Mastercard but that is about it, and it is by no means a good idea to rely on this.
So how can you get hold of this currency? Your best bet is to take traveller’s cheques into the country and to use these to help fund your stay. Since the currency is pegged to the euro it is worth getting your traveller’s cheques denominated in this currency. This at least should be pretty easy to do. The good news – finally! – is that you should find it relatively easy to find a number of places that will cash your traveller’s cheques for you. Banks will do this, as will a variety of hotels and some shops. They won’t all do this though, so again it makes sense to check the options when you get there.
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Niger West African CFA franc
This is pretty simple to do since you can use the ISO code – XOF – to help you locate the currency on any currency converter you choose to use. While it is pegged to the euro this does not mean it is worth the same on a 1:1 basis. As such you should still use the converter of your choice to see what the pegged rate happens to be.
Niger has an honorary consulate in London that has its own website, so you don’t need to visit the consulate itself to find out more about the official aspects of the country. For example there is a dedicated section for visa information on the website at http://www.nigerconsulateuk.org/visa-home/, as well as plenty more details about the country as a whole.
Travelling safely with the Niger West African CFA franc
As you may be aware, there are certain areas of Niger that the UK government recommends you do not visit. Indeed these areas cover a huge swathe of the country so there are few places you can visit at present that would be safe to any degree. Even in the other parts of the country the UK government recommends only to travel there if you absolutely have to do so. Clearly the situation in the country is very unstable so this is a time when unfortunately you should not consider travelling there for any reason.
As such there is little point in providing in-depth details about the likelihood of petty crime, which can be a problem for tourists in some other countries. There are far bigger dangers inherent in this country and they should be taken extremely seriously.
Whatever your reason might be for considering travelling to Niger, you should think about whether this might be something that should be avoided for the time being. Of course the UK government website is regularly updated to consider all the latest changes in this respect, so do check it whenever you need to. It is far better to take their advice if you possibly can.
Where to spend your francs in Niger – and what to spend them on
Niger is in West Africa as we know, but you may not be aware of exactly where it is on the map. It is actually a landlocked country, which basically means no part of its borders meets with the sea or the ocean. Instead it is completely surrounded by other countries, and there are quite a few of them as well. Starting in the north the country shares a border with Libya. To the east lies Chad, while to the south there is Nigeria. Also to the south, sharing a much smaller section of border to Nigeria, is Benin. Burkina Faso is the next in line, situated to the south-west of Niger. To the west is Mali and finally there is Algeria, situated in a north-western direction.
Do remember that you should independently check the safety of visiting any of the destinations or sights mentioned here; the situation in Niger can change rapidly. This article merely highlights some of the places you might find in Niger. For example the capital of Niger is Niamey. It is also the biggest city the country has to offer, and has a prime position on the banks of the Niger River. The capital is well-known for its national museum. Unusually this venue also offers the chance to visit a zoo, which is located in the same place. You can see many exhibits here including some dinosaur skeletons, which always seem to be a big draw for many people.
The northern part of the country, at the moment off-limits, is home to the Air Mountains. They lie within the Sahara Desert and the highest point here reaches over 6,600 feet into the sky. The mountains also cover many thousands of square miles – not somewhere you would ever want to get lost! The mountains are home to some amazing archaeological sites that have been located and explored, revealing something of what life was like here many centuries ago. The mountains also form part of the Air and Tenere National Nature Reserve. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has many links with the past, although the reserve does not cover the whole of the Air Mountains, only the eastern section.
National parks are very common in many countries and certainly in Africa, where there is plenty of big game to be seen in many areas. One of the biggest of its kind in Niger is the W National Park. This is also sometimes referred to as the W Transborder Park. This is because the park itself does not simply exist in Niger; instead it also ventures into two other countries, Burkina Faso and Benin. It is called the W National Park because of its location. It takes in part of the River Niger and this section is roughly shaped like a W, hence the name. The park has also long been designated the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Clearly Niger is not a country that many, if any, tourists would be eager to visit at this time. However perhaps at some point in the future things will change. It is certainly good to think this might happen but there are many reasons why it is more likely to be a long time coming.
Until there is a chance things might settle down in the country, we can only read about Niger and its many naturally-occurring sights. This may mean we end up never visiting it at all, but at least we would know more about it. It is never a bad thing to learn more about the world as a whole, even though we know we shall never see many places for ourselves.