NI SA BULA VINAKA and warm greetings to you all.
It is a real honour for me to welcome you all this morning as the incoming Chair of the AFI Board. I am privileged to be in the company of distinguished guests and participants from across the world who have converged in this beautiful country to discuss our financial inclusion progress.
A famous quote attributed to Warren Buffet states that ‘’someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago’’. Fifteen years ago, AFI along with some member countries and donors present in the room today, planted a seed on financial inclusion. That tree has sprouted and grown tremendously, providing financial lifelines to millions worldwide. Today, we sit in the shade provided by the tree, and through this GPF continue to care for and water it, so that it can grow even further and provide shade to even more people.
This year’s theme: “Stability, Sustainability, and Inclusivity for Shared Prosperity,” is not only fitting but also uniting, given the common challenges many of our countries are experiencing on the back of the COVID-19 pandemic and global uncertainties.
For countries like Fiji, where tourism is the backbone of the economy, the implications of the crisis were massive. While the economy has picked up, the higher global inflationary environment poses challenges on the cost of living front, particularly for the most vulnerable segments of our population. Similarly, in many advanced and emerging countries, the impact of the COVID-19 crisis has led to greater inequalities, now at their highest levels in 30 years, and widening further.
Amidst the rapid changes in global financial conditions and associated risks to the global outlook, appropriate fiscal and monetary measures combined with effective developmental strategies are needed to ensure global economic and financial stability. This means that our countries must continue to enhance and recalibrate our financial inclusion policies, which can contribute to domestic, regional and global stability.
But stability alone is not enough. We must also promote sustainability that ensures the prosperity we seek today does not come at the expense of future generations. It means safeguarding our environment, conserving our natural resources, mitigating the impacts of climate change and ensuring that our girls, women, youths and persons with disabilities are not left behind. When we commit to sustainability, we pledge to leave a healthier, cleaner, and more resilient world than the one we inherited.
Prosperity should not be the privilege of the few but for all. Inclusivity means breaking down barriers of discrimination, inequality, and exclusion. It means providing equal opportunities for education, employment, and participation in the decision-making process. Inclusivity celebrates diversity and recognises that our differences are our strengths. When we embrace inclusivity, we create a society where everyone can contribute and benefit from our shared prosperity.
Reinforcing these three pillars of stability, sustainability, and inclusivity is vital. When we ensure stability, we create an environment where businesses can thrive, jobs can be created, and individuals can confidently plan for their future. When we prioritise sustainability, we protect the resources that underpin our prosperity and prevent the devastation that unchecked exploitation can bring. And when we champion inclusivity, we tap into the full potential of our diverse society, unlocking innovation, creativity, and economic growth.
Ladies and gentlemen, achieving stability, sustainability, and inclusivity for shared prosperity It requires collective effort, determination, and a commitment to the common good. It requires us to make difficult choices and sometimes forgo immediate gains for the sake of a better tomorrow. It calls upon us to collaborate, innovate, and leave no one behind in our pursuit of prosperity.
As we embark on this journey, let us keep in mind both a destination and a continuous process. Let us hold ourselves accountable for our choices today and their impact on the world we leave to future generations.
From the Board’s perspective, I wish to highlight three important underpinnings for the success of our partnerships and collaboration:
The strategic positioning of the AFI as a network for emerging and developing countries is testament to its pivotal role in shaping the global financial landscape. AFI’s unique positioning at the intersection of economic development and financial inclusion empowers emerging and developing nations to navigate the complexities of the modern financial world effectively.
Furthermore, AFI’s strategic positioning leverages the collective strength of its diverse membership. Emerging and developing countries vary significantly in economic conditions, regulatory environments, and financial infrastructure. AFI’s network allows these nations to tap into the experiences and expertise of their peers, enabling tailored solutions that reflect local realities while aligning with global standards. This inclusivity ensures no country is left behind and solutions are contextually relevant.
The strategic positioning of AFI as a network for emerging and developing countries is a testament to its commitment to fostering financial inclusion, stability, and prosperity in the world’s most vulnerable and underserved regions. AFI empowers its members to chart their path towards a more inclusive and equitable financial landscape through knowledge sharing, capacity-building, and advocacy. As we look to the future, AFI’s role as a catalyst for positive change in emerging and developing countries remains indispensable.
Maintaining and growing the membership of AFI is a paramount priority. AFI recognises that its strength lies in the diversity of its member countries and the collective expertise they bring to the table. By continuously engaging with existing members and actively seeking new partnerships, AFI ensures its relevance and enriches the network with fresh perspectives and innovative ideas. This commitment to expanding its reach underscores AFI’s dedication to advancing financial inclusion and stability worldwide. Through a dynamic and inclusive membership strategy, AFI remains steadfast in its efforts to catalyse positive change in the global financial landscape.
The value of good partnerships cannot be overstated when it comes to supporting work and programs on financial inclusion. Financial inclusion is a complex and multifaceted goal that requires a concerted effort from various stakeholders, including governments, financial institutions, civil society organisations, and international bodies. Collaborative partnerships bring together diverse expertise, resources, and perspectives, enabling the development and implementation of more effective and sustainable financial inclusion initiatives. These partnerships foster innovation, promote knowledge exchange, and leverage the strengths of each partner to address the unique challenges of expanding financial access to underserved populations. Moreover, partnerships can help scale up successful models and share best practices, accelerating progress towards global financial inclusion goals. In essence, good partnerships are valuable and essential for creating a more inclusive and equitable financial ecosystem for all.
In conclusion, financial inclusion is not just a policy goal; it is a fundamental human right and a powerful driver of economic growth and social equity. It is the key to unlocking the potential of billions of people around the world who have long been excluded from the formal financial system. As we strive for a future where everyone has access to the financial tools and services they need to build a better life, let us remember that financial inclusion is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It requires tailored approaches considering local contexts, diverse needs, and innovative solutions. It demands collaboration and partnerships, the removal of barriers, and the promotion of financial literacy. It is a journey that we must undertake together, with unwavering commitment, to ensure that no one is left behind. Let us continue our collective efforts to build a more inclusive and prosperous world where financial inclusion is not just a dream but a reality.
Coming from a very small, developing and vulnerable country, the challenges for financial inclusion are all very real for us. But, I am confident that with the expertise, dedication and leadership of the AFI board, supported by central banks of our 82 member countries in the network, we can overcome these challenges and achieve great success. I look forward to working with each and every one of you to make our financial inclusion vision a reality for all.