The launching of a commercial bank…

How often does this country see the launching of a commercial bank? Not as frequently as the case would have been two years ago. And, when was the last time a Prime Minister graced a gala dinner hosted by founders of a private bank? Never, until last Thursday, March 7, 2013.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn surprised those congregated at the Sheraton’s Lalibela Ballroom on Thursday night, when he made rather spirited, but unscripted remarks encouraging the women who have been working to form a commercial bank, Enat Bank SC, over the past four years.

Chaired by Meaza Ashenafi, a lawyer by training who now works for UNECA, the nation’s businesswomen were determined to see the foundation of a financial institution that is conscious in promoting the welfare of women in business. Not surprisingly, six of the directors on the board are women, including Meaza, who is the chairperson. Indeed, two of its top executives – president and vice president – are women of finance.

Gossip sees Enat Bank as a venture tinted with luck. When the central bank issued a directive a year ago, instructing all banks to raise their paid up capital to half a billion Birr, Enat managed to skirt around it, as they had already secured a permit from the authorities, despite its paid up capital remaining at just 120 million Br.

The Prime Minister is not new to the idea of women setting up a bank, gossip disclosed. Back when he was a senior official of an administration he is now in charge of, as chairman of the board of Privatization & Public Enterprises Supervising Agency (PPESA), the same women were lobbying him, gossip disclosed. They were hoping to convince the Agency to let some of the many state enterprises buy shares in what was then a budding idea, according to gossip.

It is expected that Enat’s women invited him to their gala dinner, despite there being no precedence to this effect, gossip observed. And, to their delight, confirmation of his grace at the dinner came right before lunch on Thursday, disclosed gossip.

Nonetheless, what has transpired at the dinner was a bit out of the ordinary, and a little awkward to those heedful of protocol, gossip observed. It was a puzzle for keen observers of state etiquette to see the glaring absence of the central bank governor, Teklewold Atnafu, whose direct jurisdiction ought to have necessitated his presence, claims gossip. He rather sent his deputy, Getahun Nana, who usually attends events of commercial banks, although he arrived after the Prime Minister had taken his seat, gossip observed.

More unsettling, however, was not seeing one single member of the Prime Minister’s cabinet in attendance, leaving the table where Hailemariam was seated to be shared by others, contrary to what protocol allows, claims gossip. There were no ministers visible in the ballroom, for an event that brought a wide array of people from the capital, gossip observed.

If there was an incident of a similar nature during the long reign of his predecessor, it only happened once, when the late Meles Zenawi went to Addis Abeba University to witness his mentor, Kifle Wodajo, being decorated with an honorary doctoral degree, gossip recalls.

Many in the gossip corridor feel that they would want to see the Prime Minister being accorded the protocol and place he and his office deserves. They see a need for the administration to shape up in sorting out its shortcomings with a stated set of rules, including the accompanying by senior ministers, or at least those directly relevant to the Prime Minister’s visits, gossip observed.

Published on March 10, 2013 [ Vol 13 ,No 671]



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