Banque Centrale des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest Deputy Governor Norbert Toe speaking at AFI’s annual general meeting on 9 September 2020.

11 September 2020

Innovative AGM endorses strategic changes, policy models, COVID-19 response

AFI strengthened its position as the world’s foremost policy leadership alliance with members supporting a series of strategic amendments at its annual general meeting (AGM) on 9 September designed to accelerate bringing high-quality financial services to the world’s unbanked.

Recorded live from AFI’s headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the event was broadcast over a digital platform to nearly 250 participants from 69 member institutions in emerging and developing countries.

Central Bank of Egypt Deputy Governor Gamal Negm, representing AFI Board of Directors Chair Tarek Amer, praised the global audience for gathering during these complex times in order to help “protect the gains we have made in financial inclusion”.

Referencing the COVID-19 pandemic, Negm reiterated the AGM’s significance in providing a platform for the membership council to deliberate and agree on the network’s strategic direction.

“The board is confident that the AFI network, in solidarity and through continuous peer learning and experience sharing, can put in place the right policy and regulatory solutions to help strengthen our economies and emerge stronger from this crisis,” he said in his opening remarks.

He also complemented the network’s adoption of virtual delivery channels to ensure that its key deliverables remain on track, emphasizing the importance of sustainability in the coming years. While expressing support for new strategic opportunities, he added these should not be at the expense of AFI’s core identity, which is “founded on mutual respect and bottom-up approach that advance member’s needs and priorities”.

“This proven peer learning model require our continued support to strengthen its capacity to bring services closer to members,” he added.

Echoing this sentiment was Banque Centrale des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest Deputy Governor Norbert Toe, who presided over the AGM and told members that “we have to be innovative and, at the same time, preserve the DNA of AFI. This is very important and very dear to me”.

In agreement, AFI Executive Director Dr. Alfred Hannig, who delivered a presentation on management’s reflections and strategic outlook, called for a “balance approach where everyone has a saying at the table”.

He reminded members of the core principles of AFI, explaining that the network was “built on three pillars – guidance, implementation and agenda setting – with its foundation in a country-led approach based on peer-to-peer engagement”.

“We call this the AFI house,” he said.

Wanting to engage with more new members and knowledge partners, Dr. Hannig noted that the board had voted to create an observer status that increases the participation of developed country, but as non-voting members.

A united voice

In a series of polls held over the virtual platform, AFI’s membership council endorsed a Statement on Post-COVID-19 Recovery, under which members commit to develop and implement financial inclusion policies that facilitate recovery and resilience as well as restore sustainable financial inclusion in the network post-COVID-19 pandemic.

They were also united in endorsing amendments to AFI’s Articles of Association that promote greater gender balance by requiring at least three women on its nine-member board. The vote strengthens AFI’s commitments in the Denarau Action Plan and to enhance inclusive and equitable representation by encouraging more women to ascend into top positions in the male-dominated financial industry.

Currently, the board has two female representatives – Central Bank of Samoa Governor Maiava Atalina Ainu’u-Enari and Central Bank of Kenya Deputy Governor Sheila M’Mbijjewe. The new changes will come into effect for the next round of board nominations in 2021 or if a vacancy arises before then.

Showing his support was Egypt’s Deputy Governor Negm, who noted the importance of “equal participation of women” in national economies being key to global development.

“I am glad that in line with the Denarau Action Plan to enhance gender diversity, AFI, will at this AGM take further measures to ensure women are adequately represented on AFI’s board of directors,” he said.

AFI’s membership council also ratified nominations for new members to the audit, budget and finance, gender inclusive finance, and global standards and policy committees.

In the event’s final ballot, AFI members voted overwhelmingly in support of changes in AFI’s capacity building strategy as well as two upcoming policy models.

Responding to the fast-paced growth of digital financial services and the accompanying risks to consumer protection, the Policy Model on Consumer Protection for Digital Financial Services serves as a compendium of approaches, frameworks and directives to guide practical regulatory and policy approaches on consumer protection regulation for digital financial services.

Jointly produced by AFI’s Digital Financial Services Working Group and Consumer Empowerment and Market Conduct Working Group, it addresses the need of regulators to create and adapt consumer protection regulations and interventions that reflect the deepening role of digital financial services.

Produced by the Financial Inclusion Strategy Peer Learning Group, the Policy Model for National Financial Inclusion Strategy provides guidance on the development and implementation of national financial inclusion strategies to achieve financial inclusion goals. It also advocates continued private sector involvement to ensure the integration of financial inclusion approaches and enable relevant adjustments.

Built on more than 10 years of expertise from across the network in developing and implementing national financial inclusion strategies to further financial inclusion goals, the policy model’s outcome-centric focus means that it can be adapted to suit various country contexts and challenges.

Eleven members contributed to the knowledge product, namely institutions in Eswatini, Fiji, Jordan, Mexico, Palestine, Paraguay, Samoa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Referring to capacity building’s revised strategy, Deputy Executive Director Norbert Mumba said that the changes stemmed from a network-wide recognition that the key service had witnessed significant increase in demand, particularly for specialized skills courses and training that focuses on collaboration for effective policy implementation.

Reflecting this, AFI’s capacity building program will be restructured into five parts:

  1. Consolidate existing capacity building offerings – Customizing and improving existing capacity building services with enhanced focus on regions and in-country training.
  2. Adopting cross-functional approach – Extending capacity building services to relevant stakeholders for holistic contribution to national financial inclusion goals.
  3. Going virtual – introducing competency-based specialized courses delivered through AFI’s dedicated platform and other virtual training.
  4. Explore partnerships – forming strategic and long-term partnerships for effective design and delivery of capacity building services that meet emerging needs.
  5. Developing a premium human resource pool – establish a consistent technical resource pool of expert trainers, technical leads and industry experts.

The AGM is usually held ahead of its annual flagship meeting, the AFI Global Policy Forum, but efforts to minimize risks during COVID-19 and current travel restrictions led to the event being postponed until 2021. Organization’s fifth since its independence, this is the first AGM broadcasted on digital platforms due to the current pandemic.

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