What Is SOS?

SOS is the currency abbreviation or currency symbol for the Somali shilling, the currency for Somalia. The Somali shilling is issued and managed by the Central Bank of Somalia. The Somali shilling comes in the following bills: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, and 1,000 shillings. It also comes in the following coins: 1, 5, 10, and 50 senti, as well as 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 shillings.

Understanding the SOS

Somalia is located in northeast Africa, and the SOS has been the official currency since 1921. Civil war and political unrest have led to wild fluctuations or volatility in the SOS exchange rate over its history.

The Somali shilling comes in denominations of banknotes that include 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, and 1,000 shillings as well as coins. 1 cent is equal to 1/100 of a shilling.

From the 1880s until 1942, Italian Somalia was a colony under Italian control. Between 1950 and 1962, the somalo was used as its currency. Other parts of Somalia used the East African shilling. In 1962, the somalo and East African shilling were replaced at par by the Somali shilling.

An Economy Hit Hard by War and Unrest

Although Somalia is an independent nation today, it has been under duress from war and civil unrest, particularly in the 1990s. The economy was hit hard as a result of this time in the nation's history and it took its toll on the currency. Today, the Somali shilling has one of the steepest exchange rates in the world versus the U.S. dollar.

In terms of the local economy, Somalia is dependent on agriculture and manufacturing, with products such as maize, bananas, sugar, and seafood accounting for a large amount of income. The farming industry is also big, with many producers of sheep, goats, and cattle.


The year in which the current Somali shilling came into circulation, replacing the somalo and East African shilling.

Real World Example of the SOS

Since the early 2000s, the SOS exchange rate has fluctuated between 550 SOS to 1 U.S. dollar to over 3,000 SOS to one U.S. dollar. For example, if you were converting $1,000 to SOS at a rate of 550, you would receive 550,000 Somali shillings.