TUNIS/KUALA LUMPUR (1 July 2021) – Banque Centrale de Tunisie (BCT) and Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) co-hosted virtual member training on strengthening agent networks for digital financial services, their first joint event since the central bank became a member of the global financial inclusion network in 2018.
The three-day event, held from 28 June until 30 June 2021, for two groups in two time zone, was attended exclusively by senior officials from AFI member institutions and led by technical experts from both co-hosts as well as experts and partners from across the AFI network. It was based on AFI’s Regional Policy Framework to Strengthen Agent Networks for Digital Financial Services, which was developed by its Africa Financial Inclusion Policy Initiative (AfPI) to facilitate in-country financial inclusion policy implementation across the network in Africa and beyond.
“The existence of a wide agent network, which brings financial services closer to consumers, is a crucial prior element to build an efficient and inclusive financial ecosystem, since agent network is the gate through which cash can enter then circulate within the digital loop,” said BCT Governor Prof. Maroaune El Abassi.
“At BCT, we believe in the importance of promoting innovation in the financial sector to achieve financial inclusion, and that is why we have conceived a whole strategy to act as a facilitator for innovative actors, including a regulatory sandbox and innovation hub to experiment new solutions,” Governor Prof. El Abassi added.
Digital financial service agents are critical in enabling last mile groups to access payments and financial services by providing cash-in, cash-out and other related services. Their role gained further prominence during the COVID-19 pandemic, when they became financial front liners in providing essential services, including emergency cash disbursements.
“With the pandemic further accelerating digital change, it is imperative to take a closer look at the role of agents within the perspective of digital transformation of financial services,” said AFI Executive Director Dr. Alfred Hannig. He added that proper functioning agent networks are critical to the overall growth and performance of digital financial service ecosystems and the advancement of financial inclusion, particularly for women.
“For most women, especially those residing in rural areas, their first-hand experience with digital financial services is typically through a physical agent,” said Dr. Alfred Hannig. “Agent and cash-in and cash-out networks with digital capabilities have the potential to drive women’s uptake of digital financial services and lead to greater economic empowerment.”
By the end of the training, participants were learnt how to effectively contribute to strengthening their policies that support sustainable growth of agent networks within their jurisdiction, including by applying their learning to promote gender diverse agent networks as an enabler for women’s access to formal financial services.
“In the light of lessons learnt from the shared experiences, that there is not one best way to work or a unique model to implement but there are different elements to consider and diverse risks to manage. I believe that the success of agent networks is a shared responsibility between regulators, financial institutions and agents,” BCT Deputy Governor Nadia Gamha said in concluding the event.
Sessions covered a range of topics, including the role of agents in responding and recovering from a crisis, consumer protection and market conduct risks, emerging trends and technological innovations. Representing AFI’s diverse network, speakers included representatives from central banks in Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe as well as external partners, such as InTouch, MicroSave and United Nations Capital Development Fund.
BCT was in prime position to co-host the training, having spent recent years working towards accelerating digitalization, most notably through new banking regulation from 2018 that allows for the establishment of non-banking payment institutions. It will likely encourage financial service providers to develop mobile payments and other digital solutions.
The central bank is one of three AFI members from Tunisia, the others being Ministère des Finances de la République Tunisienne (principal member), and Autorite de Controle de la Microfinance de la Republique Tunisienne (associate member).
This event was partially financed through AFI’s Multi-Donor Financial Inclusion Policy Implementation Facility, with participation of French Development Agency, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Ministry of Finance of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
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About Banque Centrale de Tunisie
Established in 1958, Banque Centrale de Tunisie is the central bank of Tunisia. Based in Tunis, it joined the AFI network in July 2018. It is also a member of the Financial Inclusion for the Arab Region Initiative and the African Financial Inclusion Policy Initiative, regional platforms created amid growing demand from member institutions in Africa and the Arab Region for tailored solutions to regional financial inclusion issues. https://www.bct.gov.tn/
About Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI)
AFI is the world’s leading organization on financial inclusion policy and regulation. Currently, 100 member institutions make up the AFI network including central banks, ministries of finance and other financial policymaking or regulatory institutions from 88 developing countries and emerging markets. AFI empowers policymakers to increase the access and usage of quality financial services for the underserved through sustainable and inclusive policies and an effective use of digital technologies. www.afi-global.org
About African Financial Inclusion Policy Initiative (AfPI)
AfPI is the primary platform for AFI members in Africa to support and develop financial inclusion policies and regulatory frameworks, and to coordinate regional peer learning efforts. From AFI’s regional office in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, AfPI brings together high-level representatives from African financial policymaking and regulatory institutions to enhance the implementation of innovative financial inclusion policies across the continent.
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