Rwanda’s Prime Minister Dr. Édouard Ngirente takes a group photo with Governors and their deputies following the opening ceremony of 2019 AFI GPF in Kigali, Rwanda.

Rwanda’s PM highlights DFS for youth at opening of 2019 AFI GPF

With a bang of the ceremonial gong, Rwanda’s Prime Minister Dr. Édouard Ngirente officially launched the 2019 AFI Global Policy Forum (GPF) in Kigali and kickstarted the world’s most important financial inclusion event.

During his open remarks, Prime Minister Ngirente highlighted how innovative technology could help disadvantaged groups, particularly younger generations, better access quality financial services.

“Many of the youth have a key interest in digital channels,” he said during his keynote address. “Digital financial services accessed and delivered through their mobile phones could be the solution to banking them”.

Prime Minister Ngirente added that such efforts could help raise the rates of financial inclusion and, ultimately, achieve higher living standards and lower poverty rates.

“Financial inclusion is critical for the development of our economies” he said, before adding that any efforts to reach the remained 1.7 billion unbanked must be collaborative.

“The mandate of advancing financial inclusion is not a task of a single institution, but a cooperative and supportive effort among different stakeholders” Prime Minister Ngirente said.

Technology’s ability to disrupt traditional banking services was reiterated by National Bank of Rwanda (BNR) Governor John Rwangombwa, who used his welcoming remarks to highlight how “recent advancements in technology, and more specifically, digital financial services present great opportunities in reaching poor and remote communities, particularly here in Sub-Saharan Africa”.

Both he and Prime Minister Ngirente also noted the importance of prioritizing gender equality and ensuring that women were financially included.

More specifically, BNR Governor Rwangombwa explained how the Rwandan savings cooperatives, known locally as Umurenge SACCO, had helped bring formal financial services to women in rural communities. He added that such successes had helped lift the country’s national rate of financial inclusion to 89 percent in 2016, compared with just 21 percent in 2016.

Bringing his speech to a close, Governor Rwangombwa echoed the Prime Minister’s call to action when he said: “Yes, we still have a long way to go, but together we can make it”.

While AFI Executive Director Dr. Alfred Hannig welcomed innovative technology as a means of reaching unserved and underserved populations, he noted that regulatory institutions must also come together to address any risks posed by the fast-moving space.

“We are increasingly witnessing a global convergence of policy and regulatory solutions in the financial inclusion and the financial technology space. Underlying the convergence of such solutions are the concerns of financial regulators all around the world regarding the risks of technology,” he said.

He noted that while it was too early to make any conclusive statements, the complexity of the regulatory challenges raised by the entrance of new financial market players – from mobile network operators to payment platforms and social networks – had meant that it was “already apparent that global policy coordination and learning will be crucial to adopt policy choices that keep the risks in check while allowing to reap the benefits of the developmental value that such platforms when scaled may hold for financial inclusion”.

Meanwhile, Central Bank of Egypt Deputy Governor Lobna Helal used her opening remarks to congratulate the AFI network for its “continuous efforts and dedication” that have made it the “leading member-owned network of policymaking institutions for financial inclusion”.

Speaking on behalf of Governor Tarek Amer in his role as the incoming Chair of the AFI Board of Directors, Deputy Governor Helal said: “I intend to build upon the great work that has been accomplished to enhance the governance, strategic direction and further the develop the capacity of the network”. This, she concluded, would “enable [AFI] members to meet their individual needs and to deliver upon the aspirations of their people”.