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Banki carries the day over Benki in currency debate

Zachary Ochuodho @zachuodho

Kenyans have in the past week debated amongst one another whether “Banki” as inscribed on the Kenyan currency was a typo or not.

Comparing it to Tanzania’s currency, where the word is inscribed as “Benki”, Kenyans took to twitter asking who among the two countries was using the word correctly.

The translation made many wonder how a word could skip the attention of the Central Bank. Some people supported it while others maintained CBK had mispelled the Kiswahili word for bank.

Clive Wanguthi, for instance, asked, “Who knows best between Kenya and Tanzania? Is it Banki on Kenyan notes or Benki as is written on the Tanzanian ones?

Odeo Sirari put a humourous spin on it saying “The Central Bank of Kenya should have consulted on this. A bank in Kiswahili is Benki not Banki. Banki is closer to “Bangi” (Kiswahili for marijuana)”.

But others were of the opinion that “Benki” was the correct word with Richard James saying “I think we should use whichever letter we want. It’s our money, not Tanzania’s.”

Renowned Kiswahili author Ken Walibora also weighed in on the debate, saying, “I am not an English expert but I believe the “A” in the word Bank is pronounced as it is rather than as an “E”, thus “Banki” is the right word.

CBK has, however, put the matter to rest after explaining how the word Banki Kuu Ya Kenya, which is inscribed in every legal tender, old and new, circulating in Kenya, first emerged and why it is still loosely translated as such.

‘Banki ya katikati’

CBK Governor Patrick Njoroge said ‘Central Bank of Kenya’ was first translated to Kiswahili as “Banki ya Katikati ya Kenya”, which John Michuki, who was the then Permanent Secretary for Finance, gently rejected the translation. However, when Michuki consulted Planning minister Tom Mboya, the latter proposed that the term be translated as Banki Kuu Ya Kenya.

“Mboya, the Minister for Economic Planning, maintained that it was the translation of an English word, so ‘Banki’ and ‘Benki’ were both correct. It was decided deliberately that on the currency, ‘Banki Kuu ya Kenya’ comes before ‘Central Bank of Kenya,’ Njoroge tweeted.

After Mboya made the decision, the word was entrenched in the law as Banki Kuu Ya Kenya and has been printed on all our currency notes since then.

The CBK Act says “there is hereby established a bank which shall be known as the Central Bank of Kenya and which shall also be known by the alternative corporate name of the Banki Kuu ya Kenya”.

Imperial Bank

Meanwhile, Njoroge said there will be no extension of the October 1, 2019, deadline for exchanging old Sh1,000 banknotes, adding that doing so would defeat the purpose of the process.

The governor also said the KCB-Imperial Bank takeover process was at the tail-end. “We want to complete the process so that depositors can receive disbursements. Is it a matter of months. No, weeks,” he said.

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