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December 10, 2018

CBK governor is building a robust banking sector

CBK Governor Patrick Njoroge . /FILE
CBK Governor Patrick Njoroge . /FILE

It is sometimes easy to forget that the phenomenon of the real time of Twitter and social media in general is a very recent one. The velocity of change in this regard has been mentioned by Paul Virilio who said: “Speed now illuminates reality whereas light once gave objects of the world their shape.”

The new digital universe has engulfed the world and Kenya is no exception.

I described President-elect Donald Trump as a 21st linguistic warfare specialist, and he used linguistic warfare to devastating effect. The names he gave his opponents Crooked Hillary, Lyin’ Ted, Little Marco, ‘Low-energy’ Jeb — were devastating.

Traditional media has been disrupted, and Trump and the Brexit confirm that disruption and how insurgents can broadcast live, and direct, and over the top.

Comic-turned-politician Beppe Grillo, co-founder of Five Star, said: “This is the deflagration of an epoch. It’s the apocalypse of this information system, of the TVs, of the big newspapers, of the intellectuals, of the journalists.”

I have watched central bankers for eternity. I ran interest rate trading desks, and the central banker tends to be the lynch-pin when it comes to interest rates.

The central banker sits at the apex of the banking system and so much hinges on his or her skill. The central banker can be described as someone holding a Faberge egg as all and sundry try and jostle and make him spill the egg.

Today, a central banker has to navigate through an entirely different environment – an environment where personal abuse is considered par for the course in this new world of Trump.

Dr Patrick Njoroge, who is the governor of the Central Bank of Kenya, is a Roman Catholic and a numeracy member of Opus Dei. Dr Njoroge's credentials are impeccable, and the way he conducts his personal life should surely be a lodestar for the public service here in Kenya and the African continent.

Therefore, the first point to note is that launching a real-time linguistic warfare campaign on the governor and the Central Bank at this juncture is inaccurate, unfair, and in fact inimical to the national interest.

The governor is determined to bring the banking sector under control. What is clear is that the panoply of state institutions have been slow to engage at the same speed.

The banking sector remains fluid and multi-sided, and confidence has frayed – and understandably – but as Dr Njoroge said during the Chase Bank saga: "None of us have a right to shout fire in a crowded theatre; and this is what happened.

We had some individuals who did shout fire and to me that was very reckless because no bank can sustain the pressure of everyone trying to withdraw their money at once."

As we scan the banking horizon, we can safely say that paper and digital trails are impossible to expunge. The forensics will have the final word.

We have now entered a ''managed'' process of consolidation. We are surely entering a new era.

Condoleezza Rice spoke of ''the birth pangs of a new Middle East''. Post the interest rate bill and the Dubai, Imperial and Chase Bank developments, we are also watching the birth pangs of a new banking sector here in Kenya.

It is impossible for me to imagine a more qualified surgeon than Dr Njoroge to manage this. This is a fact.

Therefore, lets not lose sight of the main goal which is a robust banking sector optimised to propel Kenya inc into the future.

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