A local government organized mobile market at residential communities to sell food items during the lockdown due to COVID-19 virus outbreak. Antipolo City, Philippines / iStock

AFI working groups committed to COVID-19 recovery

AFI’s working groups play a pivotal role in advancing financial inclusion policies worldwide and must continue to drive progress forward despite the ongoing challenges posed by COVID-19, working group leaders said during a recent series of virtual meetings.

“We are counting on your continued commitment to forge ahead despite the uncertainties in our countries in the global fight against COVID-19,” Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ Rochelle Tomas told participants of the Consumer Empowerment and Market Conduct Working Group (CEMCWG) management webinar on 21 April.

Thomas, who also chairs the CEMCWG, highlighted their specific role of the WG in advancing financial inclusion efforts., “Our work is most critical in ensuring that financial consumers continue to benefit from inclusive financial services,” she explained.

Central Bank of Egypt’s Marwa Elhosary echoed this sentiment during the Financial Inclusion Data Working Group (FIDWG) meet a week earlier. 

In her capacity as co-chair of the working group, she said: “We have a role to play in helping the health of the vulnerable people and enhancing their lives … there should be measures that are assessed and evaluated by us to ensure the effectiveness of the policy interventions.”

Financial Inclusion Strategy Peer Learning Group (FISPLG) Chair Nangi Massawe from Bank of Tanzania, during her working group’s webinar on 16 April, acknowledged the extraordinary constraints many are currently facing, as well as the various steps being taken in response to the ongoing pandemic.

“COVID-19 is the biggest story on the planet right now. Almost everything is locked down to prevent it’s spread, she said. “I would like to thank the AFI Management Unit for the decision to start using telecommunications technology to ensure that we attain our objectives in the most timely and efficient manner.”

Helping ensure the safety of its members and staff, AFI is hosting various videoconferencing events in place of physical working group and other meetings.

AFI Deputy Executive Director Norbert Mumba opened the recent string of working group webinars, during which he emphasized how AFI’s workstreams are helping build resilience among disadvantaged populations and rebuild lives in the wake of the current crisis.

“At the critical times we face today, it is a reminder of how important your work is to ensure the survival of our vulnerable populations by designing holistic interventions to help communities quickly recover,” he told members of FISPLG on 16 April.

He also noted how women, youth and small businesses will be hardest hit by the fallout from COVID-19, adding that there is a need for creating a long-term and sustainable recovery process. In support of micro, small and medium enterprises, he described them as the “backbone in most economies, particularly in developing countries”.

“From jobs, to GDP and exports, they are the core that completes the ecosystem. We really need to work extra hard in this crisis to make sure that we are back to growth and more employment as we drive forward,” he said.

More than 130 members took part in the four management meetings, which were designed as platforms to share key updates as well as take stock of ongoing deliverables and agree on next steps.

For some, the meetings also provided an opportunity to encourage members to make full use of the AFI Data Portal, both to log their institution’s financial inclusion targets and accomplishments as well as learn about the financial inclusion efforts of their peers.

“ADP is a very rich source of knowledge and information … it is a catalogue of information that we can all benefit from as member countries,” said Bank of Zambia’s Mankolo Beyani, who is also chair of AFI’s SME Finance Working Group (SMEFWG) on April 15.