Enriching the AFI network and strengthening policy peer learning in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

The Governor of the National Bank of Georgia- NBG, Mr. Koba Gvenetadze met AFI Executive Director, Dr Alfred Hannig in Tbilisi, Georgia to discuss the opportunity of the NBG to join the AFI Network. The meeting was held following discussions with the Governor in Washington DC at the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings in April 2017.  At that meeting, the NBG had expressed initial interest in becoming an AFI member to leverage global know-how from AFI’s peer learning network and to share Georgia’s unique financial inclusion experience.

Georgia is currently undergoing rapid economic development, including in the areas of financial services, tourism and construction. The dynamic environment presents both new opportunities and regulatory challenges.  Within this environment, NBG has a central role in enabling private sector innovation while ensuring financial stability and protecting consumers. In December 2016, the NBG introduced a National Strategy for Financial Education, and is leading a multi-stakeholder national coalition to implement this strategy.  With traditional banks and new entrants from the non-bank sector increasingly offering digital financial services (DFS) to Georgia’s consumers, the NBG is working to implement safe, balanced and practical approaches to expand DFS. The NBG also plays an instrumental role in ensuring sustainable growth of Georgia’s SME sector, which is widely regarded as the country’s engine of innovation and economic growth.  The collective global expertise of the AFI network could support the NBG in advancing these policy priorities.  

An AFI membership and participation in AFI’s Capacity Building Program would help NBG to strengthen the technical know-how of its staff to assess policy implications of financial inclusion innovations. Participation in AFI’s Working Groups, where policy practitioners from all continents exchange ideas on regulatory approaches and good policy practices,  would make available to NBG a broad spectrum of regulatory tools and options.  AFI’s Joint Learning Program, knowledge exchange visits, policy peer reviews, as well as newer AFI platforms like the Fin-Tech/Reg-Tech Initiative would help to facilitate systematic knowledge-exchange with members from across the AFI network on policy issues of current and emerging priority to Georgia.

Given Georgia’s unique expertise and achievements, membership in the AFI network would be a great opportunity for NBG to provide thought leadership on various policy questions within the Eastern Europe and Central Asia (ECA) region and globally. The AFI network benefits from the collective learning of its members, and the NBGs experiences and approaches would provide important insights to its peers. The NBG will also have opportunities to contribute to the Policy Peer Learning with Standard Setting Bodies (SSBs) by providing lessons from their country experience which will inform the development of proportionate financial standards.

During the conversation with AFI’s Executive Director, Governor Gvenetadze mentioned: “We intend to be very proactive in the AFI network, and to get as much practical knowledge as possible from our engagement in AFI, both from the perspective of learning from other countries and by sharing Georgia’s experiences”.

The meeting was followed by a TV interview for Business Media Georgia, a major national economic program, where Dr. Hannig was invited to highlight the benefits and services that AFI offers to its members, particularly in the areas where NBG has indicated interest, including financial literacy and consumer protection, DFS, and SME finance. 

Georgia’s membership in AFI would also enrich the network through its fascinating historic and cultural perspectives.  Georgia’s rich traditions of innovation, music, dance, literature, architecture, culinary arts, and the genuine hospitality of its people span many centuries and are still part of Georgia’s everyday life. As is the case with all AFI members, NBG’s unique lessons and perspectives will enrich the diversity of the AFI alliance.

The meetings in Georgia came on the heels of a a series of engagements in Becici, Montenegro, where Dr. Hannig took part in the Annual Summit of National Bank Governors, Finance Ministers and Tax Administration Directors of the Western Balkans. Dr. Hannig’s presentation, titled "Regional Financial Stability in the New Global Environment" highlighted the importance of financial inclusion within the context of the Western Balkans region  which, not unlike the broader ECA region is grappling with policy implications of emerging technologies, new market and regulatory challenges, and unprecedented opportunities to improve financial services for its people.