Currency Wiki
Katanga cross
General information
Used by

People in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo


see below


ND; 19th20th centuries

Appearance and composition

typically 1 kg


typically 200 mm




cross or H

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A Katanga cross, also known as a handa in some local languages, is a cast copper cross (or rarely an H) that was previously used as currency in parts of what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo from the 19th to 20th centuries, although its use for other purposes has been witnessed since the 13th century, and especially from the 16th century with the arrival of Portuguese explorers. Katanga crosses were made in various sizes, but typically measure 200 millimeters in length and weigh approximately 1 kilogram. The name is derived from Katanga, a mining region in the southeastern portion of the DRC known for its abundance of copper.

The copper smiths responsible for the production of Katanga crosses molded these ingots by pouring molten copper into sand molds. One of the principal production sites for the objects was what is now the Cabinda Province of Angola.

Original value[]

Royal Museum for Central Africa Metallurgy Exhibit Mold For Metal

A Katanga cross mold

During its period of validity, the Katanga cross underwent a change of value from being owned by tribal chiefs and leaders, who used them primarily for large transactions or rituals, to a more widespread use for purchasing perishable goods, although its main and longest use was to bind marriages. The ingots were deemed appropriate for the establishment of marriages because copper did not lose its value and could be returned to declare a divorce. The constancy of its value and the appreciation of non-ferrous metals in Congo lead to the cross' widespread use in rituals and in royal treasures.

In what is now the Katanga Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, one cross equaled ten kilograms of flour, five crosses bought an armful of quality fabric or four fowls, and ten of the items equaled a gun, while in the region of Kasai, one cross was enough to buy five fowl, two lengths of quality fabric, three or four kilograms of rubber, or six axes; four to six could be traded for a female goat. Beyond these territories the value was much more diverse. The Babengele of the Lualaba region could transform a cross into a manilla equal in value to a female goat. Their neighbors, the Bakusu, sold female goats for two crosses. The price for a Basonge wife was equal to fourteen large crosses, a goat, gun, and a slave, giving a total of about 100 crosses or 400 francs.

Modern use and symbolism[]

Katanga 1 franc reverse

The reverse of a Katangese coin

In 1960 the Katanga Province in the Republic of the Congo (later the DRC) unilaterally declared its independence as the State of Katanga in revolt against the government of Patrice Lumumba (1925–1961). The flag and coat of arms used by the self-proclaimed country featured three Katanga crosses at the bottom right, representing the copper mining in the Katanga region. The cross is also displayed on the coined Katangese franc currency that was issued by the short-lived breakaway state.

An unofficial 1500 CFA/1 Africa coin of the Republic of the Congo produced in 2005 bears an image of what is described in Krause's Unusual World Coins as a Katanga cross on its obverse.

See also[]

  • Manilla


1912 double eagle obv Currency Wiki has 3 images related to Katanga cross.