Low inflation a hallmark of Njoroge’s tenure as banking sector builds up strength
Kenya has faced a slew of difficulties throughout Patrick Njoroge’s tenure as central bank governor. Economic growth appears to have slowed in the past year thanks in part to a delay in rainfall which hit agricultural production, the budget deficit remaining uncomfortably large and government debt to GDP climbing steadily since 2012.
Despite the challenges, Patrick Njoroge has kept inflation within its target range eight years in a row.
Njoroge kept rates prudently high in order to apply a brake to Kenya’s economy during a period of high government spending. In 2016, he was able to implement a careful programme of interest rate cuts that has brought the main policy rate down by 250bp to 9%.
The interest rate has been static at 9% for more than a year now. However, with the government setting a target to reduce its fiscal deficit from 7.6% to 5.9%, Njoroge hopes to be able to provide more monetary accommodation to help speed Kenya’s economic growth, provided the planned deficit reduction takes place.
Outside of rate policy, Njoroge has presided over a period of consolidation within Kenya’s banking sector that has helped to clean up the country’s banks and vastly improve oversight over the sector. While non-performing loans have increased, banks have tightened their lending standards in response, thanks to the central bank’s oversight. As a result, NPL growth rates dissipated through 2018 and capital adequacy ratios increased.
A wave of mergers and acquisitions in the banking sector, endorsed if not facilitated by the central bank, has left the remaining banks more profitable and benefiting from strong capital buffers, and left it more resilient and stable.
As a result, the sector has become increasingly well-capitalised and flush with liquidity. The improvements are helping the expansion of Kenya’s domestic capital markets.With an expanding market for corporate bond issuance and a growing network of collective investment schemes, conditions are right to allow the private sector to participate in financing Kenya’s ambitious infrastructure plans.