17 February 2023
February 15, 2023 – With just a few days to go before the kick-off of AFI’s annual Working Group (WG) meetings, leaders from all seven WGs gathered virtually this week to reflect on their past achievements, current challenges, and future opportunities, as well as to set the agenda for the upcoming WG events scheduled to take place in Malaysia, Nepal, and Malawi respectively.
In his welcoming remarks, Eliki Boletawa, AFI’s Director of Policy Programs and Implementation, thanked leaders for their “unwavering support” of AFI’s technical working groups, emphasizing how “essential” their work is to the network’s capacity to carry out effective policy implementations:
“The results of the most recent AFI Annual Policy and Regulatory Change Survey are quite encouraging, as they indicate that an increasing number of member institutions are developing and implementing financial inclusion policies and regulations that incorporate multiple cross-cutting policy areas.”
He congratulated leaders on their increased “emphasis on the dissemination and adoption of new knowledge products” in the aftermath of the pandemic, as well as the “numerous peer-learning events and evaluations” of new policies and regulations, which together contribute to the development, dissemination, and application of pertinent financial inclusion content.
AFI working groups are the primary mechanism for generating and hosting knowledge within the AFI network and provide a platform for knowledge exchange and peer learning that allows policymakers to share and deepen their understanding of key financial inclusion issues. Nearly 80 percent of AFI’s 83 member institutions form part of at least one of the network’s seven working groups.
During the meeting, leaders took the floor to present their respective working group’s policy priorities, upcoming initiatives, and prospective knowledge products. Overarching priorities expressed by all WG leaders included a renewed emphasis on digital financial solutions, green policymaking, and policies focused on women’s financial inclusion. In 2022 alone, AFI’s WGs successfully conducted 25 peer review activities and published 21 brand-new knowledge products, with cumulative page views exceeding 65,800.
During the meeting, leaders recommended ways to further enhance the critical role AFI working groups play within the global alliance. The Chair of AFI’s Consumer Empowerment and Market Conduct Working Group (CEMCWG), Wati Seeto from the Reserve Bank of Fiji suggested that members adopt a more hands-on, independent role in overall knowledge product (KP) development. Adding to this, Dr. Settor Amediku from the Bank of Ghana, who is the Chair of AFI’s Financial Inclusion Data Working Group (FIDWG), emphasized the need for individual working groups to establish strong ownership of KP developments and rely less on consultancy support.
While leaders were pleased with AFI’s current Phase 3 Strategy objectives – namely guidance, implementation, and agenda-setting – it was also proposed that in the Phase 4 Strategy, more emphasis is placed on encouraging member organizations to fully embrace newly implemented policies and KPs. The Central Bank of Nigeria’s Paul Oluikpe, Chair of AFI’s Inclusive Green Finance Working Group (IGFWG), highlighted the importance of ensuring that newly generated KPs are strengthened in adoption by respective member institutions. Florabelle Santos-Madrid from Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and Chair of AFI’s Global Standards and Proportionality Working Group (GSPWG), echoed these sentiments, stressing the need for the “continuation and sustainability of the progress achieved thus far” in order to effectively “improve the lives of the people” AFI’s policies seek to support.
Speaking on behalf of the Bank of Namibia, Candy Ngula who is the Chair of AFI’s Digital Financial Services Working Group (DFSWG), expressed her appreciation for AFI’s Phase 3 guidance objective at a time when “a lot of developments are taking place at a very fast pace”. Regulators, she explained, are continually challenged to “speed up the work they undertake”, independent of their countries’ rate of development and policy implementation, but “the guiding aspect” will always be there to count on as the “basis for members to refer back to”.
AFI’s Head of Policy Analysis, Robin Newnman, introduced the Global Standards and Policy Committee’s (GSPC) approved deliverables and provided insight into the soon-to-be-piloted Financial Inclusion Country Assessment project. Briefing leaders on developments in AFI’s Gender Inclusive Finance (GIF) workstream, AFI’s GIF Specialist Audrey Hove commended leaders on the progress made so far.
Looking ahead, Boletawa reminded leaders that “AFI Working Groups are more important than ever to continue advancing knowledge and practical solutions” in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, as we face new geopolitical, social, and economic challenges that exacerbate global financial volatility and economic pressure, making financial inclusion an even more critical priority than ever before.
AFI’s DFSWG and GSPWG meetings are set to kick off at the end of February in Kuala Lumpur, hosted by Bank Negara Malaysia. This will be followed by the IGF and SME Working Group meetings, hosted by Nepal Rastra Bank in Kathmandu from 7 to 10 March, while the Reserve Bank of Malawi will be welcoming AFI’s CEMCWG, FIDWG and Financial Inclusion Strategy Peer Learning Group (FISPLG) in Lilongwe at the end of March.
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