The pula is the currency of Botswana. It has the ISO 4217 code BWP and is subdivided into 100 thebe. Pula literally means "rain" in Setswana, because rain is very scarce in Botswana - home to much of the Kalahari Desert - and therefore valuable and a blessing. The sub-unit, thebe, means "shield", representing defence. The names were picked with the help of the public.
The pula was introduced in 1976, replacing the South African rand at par. Despite a 12% devaluation in May 2005, the pula remains one of the strongest currencies in Africa.
In 1976, coins were introduced in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 thebe and 1 pula. The 1 thebe was struck in aluminum, with the 5 thebe in bronze and the others in cupro-nickel. These coins were round except for the scalloped 1 pula. Bronze, dodecagonal 2 thebe coins were introduced in 1981 and discontinued after 1985. In 1991, bronze-plated steel replaced bronze in the 5 thebe, nickel-plated steel replaced cupro-nickel in the 10, 25 and 50 thebe and the 1 pula changed to a smaller, nickel-brass, equilateral-curve seven-sided coin. A similarly shaped, nickel-brass 2 pula was introduced in 1994. In 2004, the composition was changed to brass-plated steel and the size was slightly reduced.
In 1998, following the withdrawal of the 1 and 2 thebe, smaller 5, 10, 25 and 50 thebe coins were introduced, with the 5 and 25 thebe coins being seven-sided and the 10 and 50 thebe coins remaining round. A bimetallic 5 pula depicting a mopane caterpillar and a branch of the mopane tree it feeds on was introduced in 2000 composed of a cupronickel center in a ring made of aluminium-nickel-bronze.
A new series of coins was introduced in 2013.
On August 23, 1976 the Bank of Botswana introduced notes in denominations of 1, 2, 5, and 10 pula; a 20-pula note followed on February 16, 1978. The 1 and 2 pula notes were replaced by coins in 1991 and 1994, whilst the first 50 and 100 pula notes were introduced on May 29, 1990 and August 23, 1993, respectively. The 5 pula note was replaced by a coin in 2000. The original 1, 2 and 5 pula banknotes were demonetized on 1 July 2011.
The latest series of notes was introduced on 23 August 2009 and contains for the first time, a 200-pula banknote.