Patrick Njoroge is a University of Nairobi and Yale-educated economist who works as an adviser the International Monetary Fund. He’s also 54 years old, an enthusiastic supporter of Kenya’s victories in long-distance running – and single. When he appeared in front of Kenya’s parliament on Tuesday, lawmakers asked him about economic policy and his lack of Kenyan assets – but also why he isn’t married.
“I am single by choice and I am comfortable that way,” Njoroge responded, according to the Daily Nation, Kenya’s most popular newspaper. “There is nothing sinister with that and I am sure this committee has done its due diligence on what sort of a person I am”.
Why so much interest in his marital status? The BBC’s Abdullahi Abdi in Nairobi says it’s no surprise that Njoroge’s marital status raised eyebrows: “It is really unusual for a 54-year-old man to be single in the African context. Most Kenyans marry before 40.” The average age of first marriage in Kenya for men is 26 years old, according to World Bank data.
Still, the incident inspired jokes and comments by Kenyans online – in 24 hours more than 2,000 tweets mentioned “CBK [Central Bank of Kenya] Governor”. Many dismissed the whole line of questioning, saying that it’s Njoroge competence, rather than his personal life, that he should be tested by.
But other comments were more surprising.
“Patrick Njoroge is single at 54 and a CBK governor nominee, see the milestones you can achieve without a wife?” quipped blogger @kevoice_. “Now when your parents start pressuring you to bring a girl home you can tell them the CBK Governor is 54, straight & single. Thank you Jesus,” commented @Nyagah_.
The account @ComedyCentralKE tweeted: “Ladies in celebratory mood after CBK Governor declares he is single!!”
“Botswana President is single and is a performer…CBK Governor in the waiting is single and qualified…Kenyan [members of Parliament] married and useless!” tweeted @LordGichohi, whose Twitter profile identified him as a “leftist politician”. He later tweeted: “What people should be angry at is the fact that the CBK governor doesn’t have a single investment in Kenya.”
On the latter charge, Njoroge told lawmakers he wasn’t risk-adverse or bearish on the Kenyan economy – only that he was in the process of moving and considering his investments: “It’s not that I don’t have faith in the economy. I do.”