The Belgian Congo, which is the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the present day, was a colony of Belgium in Central Africa from 1908 until 1960. The colonial regime started in the 19th century when King Leopold II of Belgium formed the Congo Free State in 1885. Because of merciless economic exploitation and brutal treatment by Free State officials against native Congolese, Belgium was forced to take official control of the nation. Thus the Belgian Congo was established in 1908, removing King Leopold II from power.
During the official Belgian regime, private American and European businesses invested in the Belgian Congo. Farming and large plantations such as the growing of coffee, rubber, cacao, oil palms, and cotton were developed. The country also became a significant supplier of uranium for the United States during the Second World War. Mining of gold, copper, cobalt, zinc, diamonds, and tin was also performed.
The Congolese franc was established in 1887 but the first banknotes were released only in 1896. In 1909, the Bank of the Belgian Congo was formed and was authorized to issue notes. Its first banknotes were issued between 1912 and 1937, designed and engraved by Reichsdruckerei in Berlin, Germany, and printed by the National Bank of Belgium in Brussels, Belgium. In 1951, the Banque Centrale du Congo Belge et du Ruanda-Urundi was established and took over the responsibilities of issuing banknotes for the Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi from the Banque du Congo Belge. Therefore, banknotes issued between 1952 and 1954 bear the new issuer’s name. Most of the Congolese franc banknotes display nature, wildlife, locals, and scenes from everyday life in the country.
On June 30, 1960, the Belgian Congo gained its independence and was named the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Meanwhile, the UN-mandated territory of Ruanda-Urundi was also freed on July 1, 1962 and became two separate countries of Rwanda and Burundi.