Financial inclusion was one of the key topics at European Microfinance Week, held on 18-20 November, where staff from AFI’s management unit highlighted various achievements from across the network in addressing the challenges facing consumer protection and savings as well as vulnerable groups, such as forcibly displaced persons (FDPs).
Head of Policy Programs and Regional Initiatives Eliki Boletawa noted that while the outbreak of coronavirus had tested both financial services and households, it had also brought about new opportunities.
Boletawa moderated a session on client protection in a “post-smart” sector, during which Bank of Zambia’s Moses Musantu, manager of consumer protection and market conduct, highlighted how regulators were ensuring high standards in client protection. For the central bank, this was further cemented through its position as chair of AFI’s Consumer Empowerment and Market Conduct Working Group.
Speaking at a virtual panel session, Senior Policy Manager for Financial Inclusion Data Luis Trevino said that creating an environment for effective and inclusive savings was a key priority of financial inclusion. He explained that savings supported financial stability and resilience, not just for more vulnerable groups but also acted as a catalyst for greater economic growth.
Trevino noted that regulators were increasingly interested in promoting savings and that many aimed to digitalize saving groups – particularly amid COVID-19 – which would enhance the financial inclusion among women. This, however, raised questions over digital financial literacy and the need to enhance relevant structures.
Highlighting members’ successes was AFI Policy Analyst Mariam Zahari, who spoke about how AFI members, including Banque Centrale de Mauritanie, National Bank of Rwanda and Da Afghanistan Bank are implementing the Roadmap to the Sustainable and Responsible Financial Inclusion of FDPs. Zahari presented together with Lisa Klinger from German Development Cooperation Agency (GIZ), which lead the development of the roadmap.
During a pre-recorded session, she urged policymakers to see national financial inclusion strategies as providing a critical first step in creating enabling policy and regulatory environments needed for the sustainable and responsible financial inclusion of FDPs at the national level. This, she added, could help overcome major barriers – including limited stakeholder coordination, lack of data and financial literacy gaps – that were often preventing FDPs from accessing and using vital formal financial services.
European Microfinance Week, hosted by the European Microfinance Platform, is an annual event that brings together microfinance and financial inclusion professionals from across the globe, including investors, multilateral and national development agencies, non-governmental organizations and researchers.