AFI Executive Director Dr. Alfred Hannig delivering his opening remarks at the 6th AFI Annual General Meeting, held virtually.

8 September 2021

6th AFI Annual General Meeting – Opening Remarks by Dr. Alfred Hannig, AFI Executive Director

Greetings dear members, 

I would like to start with the special recognition of the  AFI Board Chair Governor Tarek Amer, who has been ranked among the top-10 central bankers from more than 100 countries, earning an “A” grade in the Global Finance Central Banker Report Card.

Good tradition at AFI Annual Meetings is special greeting to AFI’s newest member: Superintendencia de Bancos de la República Dominicana.

Of course, there is no way not to mention the pandemic in the opening remarks of an annual meeting. The global health crisis has kept us awake at night over the last 12 months since our virtual meeting last September. Allow me to commend the network’s resilience during these unprecedented times.

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, we have witnessed a strong performance by AFI members, which demonstrated swift policy responses that have been effective in advancing the implementation of practical solutions across the network, thus mitigating the immediate impact of the crisis and sustaining financial inclusion in members’ jurisdictions.

Thanks to the members’ peer-to-peer engagement and commitment, we have ensured that collaboration in the network is fully harnessed to support each other during this challenging times.

Personally, 12 months ago, I was not sure which direction the network would take during such crisis. Overwhelming engagement of members in virtual interactions dismissed my initial concerns. In terms of membership fee payments, I am pleased to report that this year, we are already back to pre-COVID levels.

Rather than giving up, our members have shown how seriously they take the ownership of our Alliance during the times of crisis by maintaining the achievements we have seen in the past. I would like to extend to all of you the heartfelt thank you by the AFI Management Unit for your active engagement and loyalty.

The pandemic has unleashed a revolution in our virtual engagement and our mobile and remote work. We all are part of this. Now is the time to continue identifying and implementing the strategic opportunities that have arisen from this crisis and which have already been approved by the Membership Council at last year’s AGM. This includes working on enhancing AFI’s delivery mechanisms to better serve members, in a cost effective and impactful way, further embracing the use of technology, and managing diversity and risks of the changing operating environments.

The objective of these efforts will support the establishment of an agile, flexible and focused AFI as a sustainable organization that will also preserve the community feeling within the network through personal interactions (in our last Member Needs Assessment, 77 percent of surveyed expressed desire to go back to face-to-face meetings).

The transitioning into an intergovernmental organization (IGO) is part of the organizational development exercise, and we will get an update on the current status of the ongoing work, followed by the ratification of the IGO Special Committee members.

Allow me to share with you why I am optimistic about the future of financial inclusion and the network. AFI was created in the time of the 2007/8 Global Financial Crisis. The protagonists in the global debate saw the young AFI entering the scene (“the new kid on the block”) as “gamechanger”.

A good decade after, we can confirm that these early assumptions (or concerns by some) were pointing into the right direction. The game changing nature of AFI becomes more tangible when we look at the highest level of its achievements:

  • Over the years, members of the AFI network have reported developing and implementing more than 820 policy and regulatory changes to enhance financial inclusion in their countries. In the past four years, members attributed over 100 policies and regulations annually, an indication that the preparatory work going back many years is beginning to be realized.
  • AFI members have attributed their policy and regulatory reforms to AFI at a consistent level of approximately 60 percent over the last four years, affirming the relevance and quality of services AFI provides to its membership. More importantly, it validates the effectiveness of AFI’s peer learning model as an efficient channel for policymakers and regulators to learn tried-and-tested solutions.
  • According to the Global Findex survey 2017, 1.2 billion adults were brought into the formal financial sector between 2011 and 2017. 80% of these adults are from countries where AFI members are based. According to this data and the policy attribution level of about 60%, the AFI network contributed to about 634 million people gaining access to formal financial services.

One could mention many other achievements such as the countless Maya Declaration commitments on financial inclusion, the Accords endorsed at the Global Policy Forum (GPF), the fact that AFI has become a sought-after institution (by SSBs, funders and stakeholders to learn about what is happening on the ground in the emerging and developing world), and much more.

But, I want to leave it with that and end these remarks by reassuring the members that we are in good shape to shield the organization in the future, and most importantly to protect its DNA as a member-driven network.

We also count on the full support of the knowledge partners, as well as the funding partners, who have been very aligned and provided programmatic funding during a difficult time.

I would also like to make two announcements:

  1. The Global Financial Inclusion Awards will commence in 2022 at the physical GPF. The awards will include the Nestor Espenilla Jnr- Innovation Award. The AFI awards will be elevated to a Global Awards, and we shall include an independent Jury for assessment of the Awards. Nomination criteria will be available soon on our Website and we will reach out to members for nominations process.
  2. We are holding a Policy Leadership Dialogue on 28 – 30 September on  financial inclusion beyond the pandemic, which will also  include a glimpse on what we perceive as contemporary financial regulation.

Dear Chair, Board Members, (Mongolia, BCEAO, Samoa, AFD/France)  – thank you for your exceptional guidance and immense support.

© Alliance for Financial Inclusion 2009-2022