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Board, president happy with me – !Gawaxab

Bank of Namibia governor Johannes !Gawaxab says his appointing and reviewing authorities have not indicated any concern with his performance as the head of the central bank.

He said this following a courtesy meeting with president Hage Geingob at State House on Tuesday, where he was doing his annual run briefing the head of state on issues of economic concern.

Citing independence, !Gawaxab said he was never directed by the president on what to do as a central bank.

“I have never received a call from the president, interfering with the affairs of the bank. And in terms of performance, there are no issues that I have heard from anyone in government, including the president. So, I would assume I am doing a great job,” he said.

!Gawaxab was appointed by Geingob in 2020, and later reappointed in 2021 for a period of five years.

He indicated that the board is best placed to give an indication of his performance, and the updates he has given the president are part of those that he also gave the board.

Although !Gawaxab might be considered a darling by the president and the board of directors of the Bank of Namibia, many locals have been hurling complaints at the central bank boss over high interest rates, which he said were a necessary burden to bear for now.

Since January last year, the Bank of Namibia has increased interest rates by 400 basis points to an all-time high since about 2009.

The repo rate as the benchmark interest rate now sits at 7,75% and the prime rate at 11,5%

!Gawaxab and his deputies, Ebson Uanguta and Leonie Dunn – who accompanied him on his visit to the president – oversee a multibillion-dollar banking industry that makes over N$160 million profit every month.

At the centre of these huge profits are also massive fees charged by the commercial banks and !Gawaxab is pushing for bills that will have him regulating the fees charged.

Not long ago, he had given commercial banks some leeway to charge whatever they liked, saying they were just doing “business”.

High bank charges have been a cause of concern for many Namibians and feature in the central bank’s annual report as a key complaint that consumers of commercial bank services lodged with the Bank of Namibia.

During his State House visit, !Gawaxab said he updated the president on key geopolitical and macroeconomic developments. He also updated the president on Namibia’s progress in the execution of an action plan to address anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism and proliferation mutual evaluation exercise.

He said the bank also updated the president on the strategic initiative and its implementation to address financial inclusion in rural areas and the informal economy.

Another item that was part of the agenda was the establishment of a Bank of Namibia office in the southern part of the country, which !Gawaxab said was a great idea considering the green hydrogen and oil finds that are expected to boost that part of the country economically.

“The Bank of Namibia wishes to reaffirm the institution’s commitment to supporting Namibia’s economic development and promoting financial inclusion and economic stability. The bank is ready and willing to work closely with its key stakeholders to navigate the prevailing complexities that exist within the global and domestic economy and promote sustainable growth in Namibia,” he said.

Concerning the Financial Intelligence Centre director’s appointment, !Gawaxab said the bank is at an advanced stage