4 April 2018
Following the successful FinTech Policy Forum that took place on 2 April, 2018, Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) and AFI kicked off the 17th Digital Financial Services (DFS) and 10th SME Finance (SMEF) Working Group meetings from 3-6 April, 2018 in Amman, Jordan.
“There should be a level playing field when it comes to FinTech — and at the core of this all — ensure stability, protection and integrity,” emphasized H.E Dr. Maher Sheikh Hasan, Deputy Governor of CBJ during his opening remarks at the 4-day event.
Dr. Maher also addressed the importance of Jordanian MSMEs to the country’s economy as they represent more than 90 percent of the corporate sector, contributing 46 percent to employment and 40 percent to the national GDP. In addition, he recognized the need for microfinancing and SMEs to maintain sustainable financing policy — and not just targeted at short-term achievement.
Packed with over 100 DFS and SMEF members from more than 50 countries, the first day of the 4-day event had members of both the working groups converge to discuss common priority issues, identify complementary activities and discuss possible collaborative knowledge product publications.
Dr. Maher drove a key message home during his opening speech: “It is important to have appropriate infrastructure that will create the opportunity for traditional financial institutions and FinTech to flourish … and we’ll start to see the impact on the effort of building this infrastructure.” An active member country in the AFI network, Jordan has been championing for payment infrastructure by having the payment system strategy from 2013-2016, amendment to the existing electronic payment, establishing a dedicated division for payment system and the launch of Fintech Sandbox.
“It is time to move from words to action in advancing financing inclusion through digital financial services,” said Maha Bahou from CBJ during her presentation on Jordan’s financial inclusion journey. The Jordan National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) concentrates on micro-finance, digital finance and SME finance, targeting the bottom 40 percent: women, refugees and youth that require a wide range of services. Prioritizing the needs for innovation via digital identity, e-KYC and intelligence credit scoring, the next step is to focus on financial education and literacy, and other areas of consumer protection and gender.
“In Jordan, it is heartening to seeing the inspirational work of Central Bank of Jordan in leveraging FinTech for financial inclusion for vulnerable groups such as women, youth and forcibly displaced persons,” conveyed Norbert Mumba, AFI Deputy Executive Director in his opening remarks.
Economic growth and gender equality can actually raise the global GDP from 11–25 percent. Digital financial services can serve as the conduit in bridging the financial gap to leapfrog existing systems to the forefront of providing financing. In Jordan, digital money circles platform such as Moneyfellows allowing users to create, manage and track money circles online, indicates that 15.1 percent of women vs 11.6 percent of men save informally. In addition, women need more than just financing, they need mentoring, education, guidance and confidence.
“Challenges for women-owned MSMEs include access to social network, restriction of legal and regulatory framework, inadequate infrastructure, culture and social norms,” highlights Jenny Ahlzén from Silicon Badia during a panel session on digital financial services to enhance access for women-owned MSMEs.
Panelists and members of DFS and SMEF Working Groups agree that women-led MSMEs play a major role to a country’s economy. However, the share of women-owned MSMEs is still insignificant, for example in Bangladesh, only 7 percent of MSMEs are women-owned MSMEs. Statistics show, although 82 percent of women own a mobile phone but only 9 percent own an account.
The following three days will see both DFS and SMEF members gather in their respective working groups to discuss cross-cutting policy topics with implications across every financial inclusion policy area including trends in digital financial services, and various SME finance challenges related to gender and national strategies.