6 December 2016

High-Level Policy Forum considers new Arab region initiative

Financial policymakers and regulators from Arab countries met on Jordan’s Dead Sea coast 22 -23 November 2016 at the High-Level Policy Forum on “Advancing Women’s Financial Inclusion in the Arab World”.

The Forum, co-organized by the Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ), the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF), and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) focused on regulatory barriers, policy changes and innovative solutions for women’s financial inclusion. The sessions of the Forum provided opportunities for participants to discuss innovative and successful policy approaches to close the financial gender gap by addressing social norms, enhancing access to finance for women-owned business and understanding demand-side barriers for sex-disaggregated data collection. AFI was one of the supporting partners of the Forum, providing technical content on the agenda as well as featured speakers.

At the opening of the Forum, Dr. Ziad Fariz, Governor of the CBJ, stressed the commitment of the Jordanian government and the CBJ to empower women with access to financial services at affordable costs. In this regard, he announced the launch of the Jordan National Financial Inclusion Strategy which will seek to gather data for informed policymaking and pay special attention to women’s needs.

Dr. Fariz also announced the intention to establish a new Financial Inclusion Initiative in the Arab Region, in collaboration with the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI), the AMF and GIZ. The initiative, adopted by the Arab Financial Inclusion Task Force (FITF) aims to support financial policymakers and regulators in Arab countries by strengthening policy peer learning and knowledge sharing through the AFI cooperation model. The Initiative is expected to be officially launched in first half of 2017.

Dr. Alfred Hannig, Executive Director of AFI, who moderated the session: “Regulatory barriers and policy changes to enhance women’s access to financial services”, highlighted the increased involvement of financial regulators from Arab countries in the AFI network to learn from experiences of global peers to address their specific policy challenges. He indicated that, based on available data, more efforts were needed to improve the state of women’s financial inclusion in the Arab world. Mr. Hannig highlighted the importance of having sufficient and reliable data to inform policymaking and stressed the need to collaborate with key stakeholders for a better understanding of the barriers and challenges that women face.

“Communication is key to changing women’s attitudes and building their confidence in approaching the formal financial system. We encourage policymakers and service providers to tailor their communications accordingly.”
– AFI Executive Director, Alfred Hannig

The Executive Director of AFI took the opportunity to draw attention to the “Denarau Action Plan: The AFI Network Commitment to Gender and Women’s Financial Inclusion” which was adopted by AFI member institutions in the 2016 AFI Global Policy Forum. This Plan commits policymakers and stakeholders to take concrete actions and steps to advance women’s financial inclusion. Participants discussed how policymakers in the Arab region can leverage on the actions identified in the Denarau Action Plan to close the gender gap and reduce the number of unbanked women by promoting the development and implementation of smart policies and regulations.

The second day of the Forum was a Capacity Development Program, providing practical information and technical knowledge to support the work of regulators in the region. The Forum’s participants were exposed to various countries’ perspectives, both regionally and globally, on successful regulatory policies and interventions to promote women’s financial inclusion as well as highlighting a few of the challenges faced by policymakers.

A number of AFI member institutions from outside the Arab region participated in the forum, providing insights on their experiences and sharing valuable knowledge in implementing policies to support women’s financial inclusion. Several members of the AFI Gender and Women’s Financial Committee (GWFIC) took part in the event, including its Chair, Deputy Governor Dr. Tukiya Kankasa-Mabula from Bank of Zambia, Vice Chair, Deputy Governor Dr. Natu Mwamba from Bank of Tanzania, Deputy Governor Dr. Monique Nsanzabaganwa from National Bank of Rwanda, and Deputy Governor Lobna Helal from the Central Bank of Egypt. AFI’s knowledge partners Global Banking Alliance for Women (GBA) and Women’s World Banking (WWB) were also represented in various dialogue sessions of the Forum and Capacity Development Program.

AFI is now working with GIZ and AMF for further refine the proposed Financial Inclusion Initiative in the Arab Region (FIAR) in preparation for its official 2017 launch. Activities to promote women’s financial inclusion are expected to be one of the focus areas of this initiative.



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