A delegation from Bank Al-Maghrib (BAM), led by Governor Abdellatif Jouahri, welcomed AFI Executive Director, Dr. Alfred Hannig and AFI team members in Rabat at the end of last month to discuss the bank’s present and prospective financial inclusion goals, and AFI’s role in facilitating their achievement. Discussion centered on the implementation of the first phase of Morocco’s National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS), and a range of policy priority areas, including digital financial services, the financial inclusion of persons living with disabilities, youth and rural women, and small and medium enterprise finance.
The Kingdom passed its National Financial Inclusion Strategy in 2019 with the aim of significantly increasing financial inclusion to include at least 50 percent of the population by 2023, and 75 percent by 2030. Actively involved in all of AFI’s seven working groups, BAM has pledged over 27 Maya Declaration targets specifically relating to the promotion of gender inclusive finance (GIF) and the development of sex-disaggregated indicators to address the financial inclusion gender gap; advancing financial education and customer protection; the development of the microcredit sector; and boosting the uptake of inclusive green finance among Moroccan financial institutions – all of which have yielded remarkable results so far.
As a principal AFI member for over a decade, Bank Al-Maghrib has held various leadership roles within the global network, including as member of AFI’s Gender Inclusive Finance Committee (GIFC), its Board Committees, and as former chair of its Inclusive Green Finance Working Group (IGFWG). As such, BAM has played a significant role in AFI’s peer exchange platforms, sharing its experience as one of the most advanced countries in the Arab region in adopting inclusive green finance policies to combat climate change. At a national level, BAM actively encourages Moroccan financial institutions to focus on investments that mitigate the impact of the climate crisis and reduce the nation’s water stress, while the country’s NFIS implicitly addresses climate change through inclusive green policies like microinsurance and agricultural insurance for vulnerable populations.
During the meeting, Dr. Hannig expressed his admiration for Bank Al-Maghrib’s commitment to achieving its financial inclusion targets, also highlighting its “successful implementation” of the rural women’s economic empowerment project – an initiative that was supported by AFI through a national survey on the obstacles facing women’s financial inclusion. AFI is “grateful” to have been part of this promising project and we “will remain on BAM’s side to contribute to the continuity of these and future achievements,” he added.
Governor Jouahri also expressed an interest in future peer learning and knowledge sharing opportunities facilitated by AFI, specifically relating to financial inclusion strategies for persons living with disabilities; inclusive green finance (IGF); GIF; as well as the formulation and implementation of the second phase of its NFIS. Set to finalize the first phase of its NFIS at the end of 2023, BAM seeks to gain and share insight with AFI peers on experiences in developing and reviewing multi-phased NFISs. BAM’s own innovative advances in areas such as remittances and instant payment systems were also discussed as potential knowledge pools for other AFI members to feed off.
During the meeting, officials also highlighted financial inclusion’s unique ability to reach beyond economic development, and foster “social peace”: At a time when growing frustration among disadvantaged populations brought on by the impact of global crises poses a risk to governments’ stability, financial inclusion can serve to temperate and alleviate social discomfort, acting as an ingredient for social peace.
Morocco is scheduled to host the World Bank-International Monetary Fund Annual Meetings in Marrakech this October, in which AFI is set to participate. It brings together central bankers, ministers of finance and development, private sector executives, civil society, as well as media and academics from across the globe to discuss issues relating to global financial stability, poverty eradication, inclusive economic growth, and climate change, among others.1 Key themes for this year’s events include resilience building, reinvigorating global cooperation, and securing a transformational recovery from the global polycrisis.
Joining the UNSGSA’s first visit to Morocco
Dr. Hannig took part in Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands’ first visit to Morocco in her capacity as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA). The use of digital payment systems, inclusive green finance (IGF), and the overall development of Morocco’s FinTech sector were all high on the agenda as officials agreed on the pivotal role they play in bringing unbanked communities into the formal financial sector, as well as mitigating and building resilience to the impacts of climate change.
In a statement, the UNSGSA underscored the “critical” importance of prioritizing FinTech sector development in Morocco through effective regulation, policy, and market investments, as a way to “accelerate” the country’s financial inclusion agenda. Additionally, she suggested that “with rising climate risks and exposure to drought”, Morocco could include inclusive green finance as “a core pillar of its national financial inclusion strategy”, while also adapting social protection programs to stress climate resilience.
Morocco has seen a 55 percent increase in adults’ access to formal financial services between 2017 and 2021 – from 28,6 percent to 44,4 percent – according to the Global Findex (2021). This is a tremendous achievement, reflecting Moroccan regulators’ unwavering commitment to financial inclusion. Still, 15 million adults in Morocco – particularly women, smallholder farmers and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) – remain unbanked. The objectives of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy is specifically aimed at assuring these segments of the country’s population are not left behind. During the UNSGSA visit, Dr. Hannig emphasized the “opportunities” presented by Morocco’s current financial inclusion progress, adding that AFI considers BAM’s formulation of the second phase of the National Strategy for Financial Inclusion to be a “top priority”, which it hopes to support through “valuable knowledge sharing” and peer exchange opportunities within the AFI network.
Dr. Hannig provided valuable financial inclusion input throughout the visit, and thanked UNSGSA for seeking AFI’s involvement in the mission:
“On behalf of AFI, I would like to thank Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands for her involvement and commitment to working for the development of financial inclusion for over 10 years, and for inviting AFI to participate in this UNSGSA mission in order to collect pragmatic information from public and private stakeholders of financial inclusion in Morocco. For my part, this mission has been rich in lessons and insight exchange, allowing us to consider new avenues of reflection for the development of financial inclusion – both with our interlocutors in Morocco and for the broader AFI network.”
Besides supporting the delegation’s visit to Morocco – alongside senior officials from the UNSGSA’s Reference Group, including the World Bank Group and Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) – Dr. Hannig also participated in Queen Maxima’s meetings with Moroccan government high officials, including Head of Government, Aziz Akhannouch; Secretary-General of the Government, Mohamed El Hajoui; Economy and Finance Minister, Nadia Fettah Alaoui; Industry and Trade Minister, Ryad Mezzour; Delegate-Minister to the Head of Government in charge of Digital Transition and Administration Reform, Ghita Mezzour; Bank Al-Maghrib Governor, Abdellatif Jouahri; and Moroccan Capital Market Authority President, Nezha Hayat.
During his visit, Dr. Hannig also attended meetings with private sector stakeholders, financial institutions, FinTech organizations, and development partners based in Morocco, including the African Development Bank, the United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank Group, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), UN Women, and KFW – all of which provided valuable new insights on financial inclusion policymaking and regulation as well as potentially fruitful new collaborations for the AFI network.