Graça Machel delivers the 2015 GPF's Keynote Address in Maputo, Mozambique in September 2015.

6 October 2015

2015 GPF: Graça Machel Keynote Address

His Excellency, Ernesto Gove, Governor of the Bank of Mozambique

His Excellency Mr Alfred Hanning, Executive Director of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion

Honoured guests and dignitaries from across the globe, please permit me to say all protocol observed.


I would like to thank the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) for the opportunity to address this distinguished audience today at its Annual Global Policy Forum.  It is  my honor to talk to you this morning in my capacity as the Founder of New Faces New Voices, a Pan-African network of women in Finance represented in fifteen countries. We engage governments, especially Ministers of Finance, Governors of Central Banks, CEOs of financial institutions and businesswomen to enhance synergies for the financial inclusion of women in the formal economy of the African continent.

Why is financial inclusion important?

Having a bank account is the first, most important step for any citizen to have an identity in the financial formal economy. Otherwise, you simply do not exist, you do not count in any way.

As you all know, more than 2 billion people today operate outside the formal financial system.

In Africa, the percentage of men without a bank account is 60% with women being much higher at 70%. Numerous studies have shown that in terms of access to and usage of financial services, the needs of women are different from the needs of men. Hence, a one-size-fits all approach to financial inclusion will not succeed in closing this gender gap. Moreover, even among women there is a tendency to lump us all in one basket, whilst there needs to be better segmentation depending on:

  • Income levels
  • rural or urban location
  • education levels
  • and economic activity.

Excluding 60% of African men and 70 of African women is lost business for financial institutions, and it is a short-sighted approach for governments to neglect these numbers.


When we started New Faces New Voices in 2010, the issue of women’s financial inclusion was hardly on the map.

Fuelled by the belief that women are fundamental contributors to our economies, we first engaged financial institutions to show them that there was a solid business case for investing in women.

Our ambition is to position women at the centre of economic development as entrepreneurs, investors, as consumers and more importantly, to climb the ladder of leadership in the financial sector as CEOs, as members of Excos, as the Chairs of boards.

I am pleased to see that after five years of constant advocacy work at national, continental and global levels, there is a shift taking place in the world community that is finally starting to accord women their rightful place in shaping their own economic futures, and the futures of their countries.

Some analysts are saying that women are the “next emerging market” and to  quote a report by Ernst & Young, “the potential impact of women on the global economy – as producers, entrepreneurs, employees and consumers – will be  at least as significant as that of China and India.” The world finally gets it, that no country can successfully develop by leaving 50% of its population behind.

Governments, especially in developing countries, have been struggling to determine the exact size of populations excluded from access to financial services. This raises the importance of disaggregated data by

  • gender,
  • age,
  • rural and urban

so that we can have reliable statistics on who and how many people

  • are accessing formal and informal financial services;
  • which products and services they are using and
  • what interventions are necessary to accelerate this process.

Let me now give you some examples of our work as NFNV

We began working with the Bank of Zambia in 2011 because they have a strong gender champion in Deputy Governor, Dr Tukiya Kankasa-Mabula, who is with us today. It didn’t take long to see that we shared a passion for empowering women, and because of her decision-making position at the Bank of Zambia, where she could drive regulatory and policy changes, a number of gender-sensitive policies were put in place in Zambia to accelerate women’s financial inclusion, which have yielded positive results today.

One of these was the creation of a Taskforce on Gender Inclusiveness which is made up of Central bank officials, representatives of financial institutions, banking associations, legal bodies and civil society groups including NFNV. It was on the basis of this partnership that we joined forces with the Bank of Zambia, GIZ and Financial Sector Deepening Zambia in 2014, to conduct a qualitative study on “Women’s Access to Financial Services in Zambia.”

Dr Mabula recently informed us of the release of the FinScope 2015 Zambia Survey. The findings show that financial inclusion levels have increased significantly for adults:

  • from 37.3% in 2009 to
  • 59.3% in 2014.

Most notably, the government has beaten their target of 50% inclusion, which was outlined in the Financial Sector Development Plan.

The most notable achievement, however, was a 22% increase in the levels of women’s financial inclusion from 33.9% in 2009 to 57.4% in 2015.

In Rwanda, New Faces New Voices had been working with the National Bank of Rwanda since 2014 when it made a pledge at our African Women’s Economic Summit to double formal inclusion for women from 36% in 2014 to 72% by the time of our next Summit in 2016.

Rwanda is a country where 52% of the population is female, and where unusually, 57% of the adult working population aged 20 to 44 is female. Funded by GIZ, the Bank of Rwanda is currently working with NFNV on a study to assess the policy, legal and regulatory framework to identify gaps and convert them into opportunities to fast-track financial inclusion for women.

As a prime example of its determination to better the lives of women, the Rwanda chapter’s vision is a Rwanda where women co-create their full financial inclusion and reach their economic potential.

A two-day conference was organized in June by the 18 founding members of the chapter, under the leadership of the Vice Governor of the Bank of Rwanda.

Under the theme “Transformative Financial Solutions for Women,” the event attracted over 300 participants from the financial sector, development agencies, government departments at national and local level, women’s organizations, business leaders and so on. The chapter used this event to unveil its bold and ambitious plan to transform the lives of one million women in Rwanda by ensuring their participation in the formal financial system.

The chapter is targeting women in six clusters, which are:

  1. low-income women at the bottom of the pyramid,
  2. women in cooperatives,
  3. women owners of micro-enterprises,
  4. young emerging women entrepreneurs,
  5. junior-mid level professionals, and
  6. established business women and senior professionals.

Similarly, our Uganda chapter is actively working to reach unbanked women in rural areas. The position of women in rural areas without access to financial services has been growing worse between 2009 and 2013.

Recognizing this situation, the NFNV Uganda Chapter conceived, designed and implemented a financial inclusion and enterprise development programme, called FINISAVE (which stands for Financial Inclusion Through Savings and Village Enterprises).

After one year of implementing the FINISAVE programme, 250,000 people (60% of them women) from 465 villages in Lwengo District have accessed knowledge on banking services,  products and  their rights  as consumers.   To  date,  377  SACCO

(Saving and Credit Cooperatives) and Village Enterprises (SAVEs) have been established, and registered with bank accounts at Finance Trust Bank, each comprised of 30-40 members who save regularly and meet on a weekly basis to monitor their savings.

Even more exciting, the ready market created through FINISAVE caused a new bank branch to be opened at Mbirizi, an area which had never had a brick and mortar  bank in the history of the district.

As a contrast to these good examples, Mozambique is one of the countries with the lowest percentage of financial inclusion in SADC. In December 2013, New Faces New Voices partnered with the Bank of Mozambique to look at:

  • how to accelerate women’s access to financial services in the country by focusing on financial education and consumer protection in women’s demand for financial services;
  • how to increase women in management positions in financial institutions;
  • and the role of mobile banking in promoting women’s access to financial services.

What we found is that very few banks were targeting women hence their product offering was limited but, slowly now this picture is changing.

  • BCI bank has a women-focused credit line with preferred interest rates for women business owners;
  • Women’s MicroBank in Matola also has a new initiative targeting women with specific savings and loan products;
  • FIDES Microbank offers a group loan product designed around women’s informal savings groups in Nampula;
  • and SOCREMO is introducing more flexilibity in its collateral requirements for women.

This is very encouraging but we cannot afford to be complacent when only 15.5% of women are banked and the gap in the inclusion rate between men and women is almost 10%.

Despite our emphasis on women, we should equally take into consideration the imperative of including the youth as part of our financial inclusion plans.

Young people constitute our current and future labour force but they also constitute the bulk of the unemployed who pose a potential threat to our political and economic stability, if their talents, aspirations and needs are not addressed or channelled to productive purposes.  Statistics show that:

  • 53% of young people between the ages of 16-30 are not saving at all,
  • 46% don’t have any form of insurance,
  • and 47% are not accessing credit.

This is a warning sign that too many are financially excluded. On top of this, many are poorly educated, especially young women.

Providing opportunities for young people to also be part of the formal economy and the formal financial system is clearly critical to our short and long-term economic growth and sustainability.

The three positive examples I presented earlier illustrate what can be achieved when all stakeholders come together with determination, focus, clear strategies and targets.

I am delighted that many African countries have made commitments but I note with concern however, that only a few countries out of all the Alliance for Financial Inclusion members have singled-out women in their commitments. We are told that the Bank of Papua New Guinea, the Central Bank of Solomon Islands, and Reserve Bank of Vanuatu are the only 3 countries that have explicitly set targets to reach the unbanked female population in their jurisdictions.

We need more countries – and especially African countries – to do the same.

The Alliance for Financial Inclusion has been successful in building a global network of regulators and policy makers from developing and emerging markets, working together to increase access to appropriate financial services for the poor.

However, as previously mentioned, one of the biggest challenges countries face is the lack of coordination and collaboration between key stakeholders in the financial sector, which go beyond regulators and policy makers. Another challenge is implementing good policies and being held accountable when targets are not achieved.

There is great room for collaboration between governments, regulators, the private sector, and civil society in ensuring financial access for all. This creates an opportunity for organizations like NFNV and Alliance for Financial Inclusion to find ways to collaborate and coordinate efforts.


Ladies and gentlemen, in September 2015 world leaders will adopt in New York the Sustainable Development Goals in which they pledge to leave no one behind. It is in this framework that financial inclusion has to be translated into providing a  financial identity to every youth, every woman in rural and urban settings to have a financial identity which allows them to take a stake in the formal economy in the next fifteen years of the Sustainable Development Goals framework.

It will require a massive scaling up of our efforts. Business as usual is not an option. I leave you today with this challenge.

I thank you and wish you great success in your deliberations during the next few days.

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