23 May 2022
Eliki Boletawa, Director, Policy Programs & Implementation for the Alliance for Financial Inclusion
AFI´s management unit officials, Representatives of the various AFI working groups, ladies and gentlemen
For us your presence at this event is a real pleasure and a privilege and we warmly welcome you to our country.
Costa Rica is a small territory whose historical development was amalgamating a series of values that without suspecting it are in the depths of our collective life: love for freedom, democracy, tolerance, civility, aspiration to social justice, belief in education, among others. We are a land that the world observes with respect for the defense, protection and promotion of human rights and the environment. We have become the first country in Latin America to officially present the Decarbonization Plan for its economy by 2050, with the aim of being a modern, green, emission-free, resilient, and inclusive nation.
Today we are honored to be able to serve as co-hosts in one of these first face-to-face meetings after almost two years of exclusive virtuality.
We are aware that for many of you coming to Costa Rica represented several days of heavy travel, which denotes a great commitment to an issue as relevant as Financial Inclusion and for which we are grateful. We are pleased to be part of this resumption of face-to-face meetings of the AFI working groups.
We are also aware that the working groups, through their reflections and discussions, are the engine that drives the generation of knowledge products on the network and although we know that said production has not ceased during these times of Pandemic, we also believe that the human interaction is the catalyst for good work in a matter as human as financial inclusion.
This is a first big step to begin to leave behind these difficult times that have impacted the entire world, marking a milestone in the history of humanity, where health personnel gave their lives to save the lives of many others, where we lost fellow citizens, friends and family. We hope that this so-called “new normality” will not prevent us from the group cohesion that has always characterized the AFI Network.
A network that brings together a community of institutions, which share the importance of financial inclusion as a catalyst to integrate the unbanked population into the formal economy, with the aim of raising their standard of living for all. From different latitudes, we share experiences and knowledge, develop solutions and learn from our peers.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic was a strong blow to many of the advances that had already been made in terms of financial inclusion, as in any life experience, we must acknowledge that we can also learn and leverage from adverse situations.
Our work as regulators and policy developers has demonstrated the ability to face this harsh test of the COVID-19 Pandemic, allowing us to expand our radius of action to more people thanks to technology, generating unprecedented measures to protect families and companies of the effects of the lockdown. There were no rules or textbook to follow, with art we monitor, design and decide in situations of high uncertainty. We can say that although with wounds that still need to be healed, we are moving forward, with stronger financial systems.
Let us not see the pandemic only as a calamity in the face of which we must crumble, but rather as an opportunity to be more innovative, display our inventiveness and resume our work with even more determination.
Along these lines, these difficult times have highlighted even more the many benefits that being part of this extraordinary network offers us, as well as the importance of technology as a means to overcome the main difficulties we face when we try to promote financial inclusion. Now, technology in itself is not the absolute solution to all problems and it also presents us with some difficulties that we must learn to manage, mainly the fight against cybercrime, which was exacerbated by the increase in digitization promoted by confinement. In other words, we must also be innovative to ensure that these technological solutions really reach and benefit all excluded people.
We know that a new storm awaits us, a new crisis marked by geopolitical conflicts, high prices of raw materials, a period of stagflation and new outbreaks.
And even in this context, let us think for a moment about the privilege of participating in this activity, which invites us to respond with the satisfaction and pride of bringing to fruition the projects already underway and those that arise from this week’s discussions. In order to have more challenging initiatives that bring us closer to fulfilling our mission, today more than ever these initiatives are imperative.
I wish you a very productive week of work and I urge you to make the most of these meetings with renewed energy now that we have the opportunity to share in person again.
Have a very good day, and as we say in Costa Rica “Pura Vida”.