3 May 2024

Country Focus: Advancing Financial Inclusion in North Macedonia

In April 2024, the AFI network was delighted to welcome the National Bank of the Republic of North Macedonia (NBRNM) as a new Principal member. The Governor of the National Bank, Anita Angelovska Bezhoska, provides an overview of the state of financial inclusion in the country, and NBRNM’s work to support underserved and vulnerable groups.


How has financial inclusion developed in North Macedonia in recent years?

It has advanced significantly across different demographics, driven by concerted efforts to expand access to financial services and promote financial literacy. According to the latest Findex data, the percentage of the population over the age of 15 with access to financial accounts was 85% in 2021, up from 74% in 2014. There has been a noticeable uptick in the use of digital payments, particularly among young people: according to Findex, the percentage of individuals aged 15-24 who made or received a digital payment increased by a third from 2014 to 2021.


Despite the notable progress, we still see gaps compared to more developed economies. In the Euro Area, for instance, the percentage of adults holding accounts is almost 100%. Therefore, we are undertaking a proactive approach to narrow this gap, deploying various efforts to support the financial inclusion of underserved and vulnerable groups, in particular women, young people, and older adults.


What are the National Bank’s current projects and priorities around financial inclusion?

Our current initiatives are aligned with the National Strategy on Financial Education and Financial Inclusion (2021-25), implemented under the leadership of the National Bank, jointly with the other financial regulators.

The Strategy serves as a comprehensive roadmap for advancing financial literacy, inclusion and consumer protection in North Macedonia. Key achievements include establishing a robust cooperation framework among relevant stakeholders, adopting strategic documents (including a Code of Good Practices for Financial Education), as well as enhancing the visibility of educational activities.

In recent years, the National Bank of North Macedonia has educated around 22,000 individuals from different age groups. A separate Department for Consumer Protection and Financial Education has been founded, with the aim of bolstering inclusion and protection in financial services. The adoption of a new regulation within the Law on Payment Services and Payment Systems also significantly fortified customer protection measures.

Looking ahead, our priorities revolve around further strengthening consumer protection regulations and practices, expanding financial education programs to reach diverse target groups, and leveraging digital channels for educational outreach. This year, we are focused on strengthening on-site and off-site market conduct oversight of the banking system, financial inclusion of disabled people, as well as financial inclusion of women entrepreneurs.   


How does being part of the AFI network benefit the National Bank?

Joining AFI brings many benefits for us, considering the sizeable AFI community and experienced member institutions. It is based on sponsorship provided by EFSE-Finance in Motion together with EBRD as an implementing partner of Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative.

We have already participated in various working group meetings, engaging with our peers globally, learning, and sharing knowledge. Participation in AFI provides access to a wealth of best practices, expertise, and resources in the field of financial inclusion and literacy. By exchanging experiences and collaborating with other central banks, we gain valuable insights into innovative approaches and regulatory frameworks, thus enhancing our efforts in promoting financial inclusion.

Additionally, participation in AFI strengthens the National Bank’s network and relationships with international stakeholders, facilitating knowledge sharing and capacity building initiatives. Overall, this collaboration reinforces NBRNM’s commitment to advancing financial inclusion in North Macedonia, and contributing to global efforts in this regard.

You can learn more about the work of the National Bank of the Republic of North Macedonia on their website.


© Alliance for Financial Inclusion 2009-2024