The position of the central bank governor in Africa, is associated with a life full of luxury.
Upon the appointment of one central bank governor, the first pictures that dart across ones mind are of the governor living up-market life with a well-furnished big house, throwing himself in a sprawling swimming pool.
The central bank governors’ tough job is essentially to make sure there is adequate currency of exchange for a country to spend or misspend.
Some, to please their appointing authorities, master the art of regularly painting rosy figures of the national economy and juggling with the economic growth rates and rarely do they mention the doomsday narratives of the economy.
The coming of a new reserve bank governor makes great news for any country as the fate of the economy is believed to be resting in his the hands.
A new governor heralds a new hope for African economies.
And Malawi has a new Reserve Bank governor in the name of Dr Dalitso Kabambe. He replaces Charles Tchuka whose contract has graciously expired.
The tradition with most central bank governors is that they preach tightening of economic belts in order to achieve some ends. But most of them live contrary to their economic sermons.
This is the reason why former Malawi Reserve Bank governor, Perks Ligoya, years back, was heavily criticized, for asking Malawians to tighten their belts and shun imports of luxury goods, while he on the other hand, assented to the construction of a multi-million kwacha swimming pool in his backyard-the governor’s residence.
Now, as congratulatory messages are pouring in on the recent appointment of the new governor of the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM), and coming at a time the Malawi economy has begun to stabilise, one quickly remembers the story of one Patrick Njoroge, the Kenyan central bank governor, who upon his appointment in 2015, puzzled his countrymen and the rest of the world with his frugal ways.
The story of Kenya’s central bank governor attempted to upset the natural African order of things as he puzzled his countrymen in so many ways.
First, at age 54 in 2015, revealed that “I am single by choice – it’s not because there’s a problem or shortage.”
But that was not what made news.
The news was Njoroge, turned down the privileges of his job which included three luxury official cars, chase vehicles, a posse of security guards and a palatial house in one of Kenya’s most upmarket estates.
He instead preferred to continue living in a communal setting more similar to a monastery, with his fellow members of the Catholic institution of Opus Dei, best known for its frugal ways and abstinence and sometimes celibate life.
Further, his countrymen, scratched their heads over their discovery that despite his seven-figure IMF pay, where he worked previously, Njoroge did not have a single asset of note, which the good economist said was his economic model and “very deliberate”.
Njoroge, however, joined the club of a few redemptive central bank governors, such as Botswana’s highly-decorated Linah Mohohlo, who preferred to be visible only when necessary, and to focus on being really good at their jobs.
All this is not to say that the new RBM governor should become single like a Njoroge, neither that he should abandon the governor’s residence and occupy shanty townships.
Yet, he can learn something from Njoroge.
Coming at a time that the World Bank has returned to the country’s national budgetary support, Kabambe, should prove a point to President Peter Mutharka, who has worked strenuously to bring back the donor confidence, after years of dry taps of donor support to the national budget.
Kabambe, a seasoned economist, who has been welcomed as having wide in the economic sector with almost 19 years of experience in the civil service working on many roles as the principal economist in the Ministry of Agriculture for 7 years, Chief Economist and Deputy Director of Economic Planning and thereafter as Budget Director in the Ministry of Finance and, Economic Planning and Development and lastly as the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, means more to the President Mutharika’s plans of Malawi’s economic growth.
Rather than juggling with figures to paint a rosy picture of the economy and taking lies to the president, the learned Kabambe should be reporting only truths to the president for he has been appointed on both trust and merit.
And charity begins at home. While Kabambe urges on countrymen to tighten their belts in times that the economy seems to be turning the point and showing signs of hope, Kabambe should also tighten his belts like a Njoroge. Moreover, it is not a burden to follow a Njoroge’s frugal way of life. (BY NYONI WA NYONI)