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Five things to know about DRC’s first female central bank governor

By Joël Té-Léssia Assoko
Posted on Friday, 9 July 2021 13:31

Malangu Kabedi Mbuyi Photo: Twitter

DRC President Felix Tshisekedi appointed Malangu Kabedi-Mbuyi, a longtime International Monetary Fund (IMF) official, as governor of the central bank on 5 July, according to a presidential decree. Kabedi-Mbuyi joins a very elite circle of women central bank chiefs.

Kabedi-Mbuyi, 63, is the first woman to be appointed head of the Banque centrale du Congo, BCC (Central Bank of Congo) since its creation in 1961.

Her appointment comes in the context of an in-depth reform of the BCC, driven by a law created in December 2018 that has been pending since, aiming in particular to modernise the bank’s structure, resources and operation.

The entire board of directors of the BCC has been reshuffled. Among the departing members, in addition to Deogratias Mutombo, the former governor, is Albert Yuma, a businessman reputedly close to former president Joseph Kabila, who had been on the BCC board for nearly twenty years.

This overhaul is one of the conditions set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) prior to the disbursement of a three-year financing of about 1.5 billion dollars under discussion for several months.

1. Pioneer

Kabedi-Mbuyi is the 13th person to occupy the seat of governor of the BCC. She is the first woman to head such an institution in Central Africa and continental French-speaking Africa. She joins an extremely small circle of women leaders who have ever held the position of central bank governor.

Her predecessors in Africa include Botswana’s Linah Mohohlo (1999-2016), South Africa’s Gill Marcus (2009-2014), Seychelles’ Caroline Abel (in office since 2012) and Lesotho’s Retselisitsoe Matlanyane (also in office since 2012).

2. An IMF veteran

The new Governor of the BCC is well acquainted with the IMF, where she has spent most of her 32-year professional career. Kabedi-Mbuyi has worked with the country’s authorities and in coordination with the country teams at IMF headquarters on issues related to macroeconomic policy management, the social situation, and the implementation of structural reforms in the context of IMF-supported economic and financial programmes.

3. Popular choice

Her appointment has been widely welcomed by members of both the majority and the opposition in the DRC. The country’s banking sector, which she will have to supervise, also applauded her appointment. Ecobank DRC and Rawbank – the country’s largest bank – have notably pointed out the example she represents for female leadership in the country.

According to our sources, it was Nicolas Kazadi, the Minister of Finance, who proposed her appointment to Tshisekedi.

4. Globe-trotter

Kabedi-Mbuyi started her career in 1984 as an economist at the Centre for Applied Economics at the Free University of Brussels, where she worked for a year. She then joined the research department of the BCC – then the Bank of Zaire – where she worked for two years.

Fluent in French and English, she worked for the IMF as economist with a wide brief including Togo, Benin, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Mali. Her responsibilities focused on statistical data management, analysis and macroeconomic projections.

She was also Deputy Division Head and Head of Mission for five countries: Togo (2003-2004), Chad (2004-2005), Burkina Faso (2009-2012), Sierra Leone (2012-2015) and Cape Verde (between 2018 and her appointment at the BCC). She was also IMF resident representative for Benin and Togo in the late 1990s, then for Cameroon between 2005 and 2009.

As a teacher at the IMF Training Institute (1994-1996), her courses included financial policy programming for officials in Ministries of Finance and Central Banks. The Congolese official was also director of Afritac West – the IMF’s Regional Technical Assistance Centre for West Africa – between 2015 and 2018, located in Abidjan, and covering nine countries in the region.

5. Heavy workload

Among the many tasks that Kabedi-Mbuyi’s team will have to carry out is a major reform of the BCC. This overhaul has been expected since a new law was passed in December 2018. This law notably increases the independence of the BCC, but it also increases its accountability and transparency as well as its role in controlling the “proper functioning of the payment system” and its assets.

IMF staff expect the BCC to “return to strict compliance with the rule of non-financing of the budget by the Central Bank [which] should be imposed to avoid monetising the deficit and creating inflation,” according to a document seen by Jeune Afrique.

The BCC will also have to ensure that the entire banking system updates its accounting standards to IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards). The IMF also urges it to “take advantage of the abundance of liquidity in the banking system to transfer abroad the foreign currency deposits it holds”.

Finally, the Governor will have to implement the recapitalisation of the BCC. The institution’s own funds are expected to reach 130 million dollars, but “due to budgetary constraints, the timetable for recapitalisation has not yet been decided”, says the IMF.

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