Dr. Alfred Hannig, AFI Executive Director, delivers opening remarks during AFI joint working group virtual meetings of DFSWG, FISPLG and IGFWG on 23 March 2021 co-hosted by Bank of Ghana

23 March 2021

Digital Financial Services, Inclusive Green Finance Working Groups and Financial Inclusion Strategy Peer Learning Group virtual meeting

 

Opening remarks by Dr. Alfred Hannig, AFI Executive Director 

 

Honorable Dr. Ernest Addison, Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Ms. Elsie Addo Awadzi, Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Chair & Co Chairs of the Digital Financial Services Working Group, Financial Inclusion Strategy Peer Learning and Inclusive Green Finance Working Group, Members of the Working Groups and AFI Team.

 A very good morning to you all!

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the joint convergence meeting of the working groups of the Digital Financial Services, Inclusive Green Finance and Financial Inclusion Strategy Peer Learning Group.

Allow me Honorable Governor, to express my sincere gratitude to you, the Bank of Ghana as well as the team that has supported the preparations of this meeting for their excellent support to virtually co-hosting this first ever three working group meetings simultaneously.

The Bank of Ghana (BoG) has stood out for its leadership role and commitment within the AFI network. Our relationship has grown and strengthened overtime. We are grateful for this support and you sharing thoughts at this event is a mark of commitment to the work of AFI.  I also thank everyone for taking their time to attend this meeting. It is exciting and pleasing to see over 139 members of AFI working groups here today.

It is indeed an opportune time to be hosted by the Bank of Ghana for a convergence of the Digital Financial Services working group, Financial Inclusion Strategy Peer Learning Group and the Inclusive Green Finance working group. I say so against the backdrop of the recent groundbreaking interventions for financial inclusion by Ghana. Notably, the extensive DFS agenda which has witnessed the complete interoperability of DFS and the launch of the first national QR Code in Africa. At the policy level, the launch of the National Financial Inclusion and Development Strategy (NFIDS), the Digital Financial Services Policy and the development of the Sustainable Banking Principles sets the right context for you to be hosting these three working groups.

The year 2020 was unique for AFI in a variety of ways, particularly due to the consequence of the global COVID-19 pandemic. We observed our members making quick policy responses in multiple policy thematic areas in addition to the financial sector and received requests from members for technical peer-learning webinars in key policy areas related to COVID-19 including DFS, SME finance, consumer protection, and gender inclusive finance, to understand the different approaches to alleviate the hardships felt by different population groups such as the rural population and women.

While the global situation remains fluid, we should see this as an opportunity to intensify our efforts on development of policy and interventions that will focus on recovery. The crisis gives us an opportunity to reposition ourselves to build a better normal. AFI foresees that the primary mode of service delivery, at least for 2021, will remain virtual. Nevertheless, we expect the momentum of activities to remain strong, as members remain highly engaged on policy issues related to financial inclusion.

Even with the limitations and difficulties faced in 2020, AFI is happy to share that a total of 137 new policy changes were made by AFI members where 34 policy changes were around DFS, focusing specifically on FinTech, E-money and National Payment Systems reviews, and half of the DFS policy reforms developed and implemented are targeted towards mitigating the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Three new policy changes on IGF were also reported in 2020 and four new policy improvements were related specifically to Gender Inclusive Finance.

Allow me to also convey the appreciation and commendation from the AFI Board of Directors to the Working Groups on the outstanding leadership shown by the Working Group Chairs and Co-Chairs in successfully ensuring the completion of the 23 Working Groups deliverables for the year 2020. I commend all members of DFSWG, FISPLG and IGFWG working groups who participated in the development of these valuable knowledge products.

Moreover, 2020 has seen the endorsement of two Policy Models on National Financial Inclusion Strategy and Consumer Protection for Digital Financial Services, developed with the tremendous support of the Working Groups. This year, we have envisaged an additional two Policy Models on MSME Finance and E-KYC. AFI Policy Models act as key frameworks and best practice examples to aid members as they develop their own country policies while fostering international collaboration and raising members’ voice.

Regarding IGF, there is already a lot of movement around green finance policy development globally and it is very encouraging to note that we as the AFI Network are taking leadership of this development.

The rapid development of IGF policies can be seen within the IGFWG work streams as they are currently developing knowledge products together with five other working groups. Specifically, they are supporting FISPLG’s knowledge product on how to integrate IGF elements into the National Financial Inclusion Strategies. Additionally, they are exploring the potential for leverage in DFS to promote IGF initiatives.

The Digital Financial Services Working Group continues to provide leadership at entrenching DFS as a key driver of financial inclusion within the network. The DFSWG has positioned itself to drive learning and build the capacity of members to adequately facilitate the deepening of DFS within their jurisdictions while proactively addressing possible adverse unintended outcomes. In this regard, the DFSWG has committed to coordinating knowledge products and peer learning interventions on new and emerging innovations within the DFS landscape such as data protection, cyber security, digital banking, open banking and Central Bank Digital Currency.

The Financial Inclusion Peer Learning Group (FISPLG) is the driver of financial inclusion growth which is achieved through support and guidance to the AFI members regarding their national financial inclusion strategies. In turn, FISPLG provides a platform to IGFWG and DFSWG to enable the leveraging of their respective areas of expertise from the angle of a country’s financial inclusion strategy. 

A notable achievement in 2020 was the development and endorsement of the Policy Model on National Financial Inclusion Strategy which codified NFIS best practices across the AFI member network, creating a financial inclusion flagship report at the heart of AFI’s financial inclusion ecosystem. FISPLG has cooperated with the IGFWG to develop a groundbreaking guideline note on “Integrating IGF in a NFIS” and is looking forward to cooperating with the DFSWG to develop a Knowledge Product this year, similarly focusing on the integration of DFS in a NFIS. These cooperation of FISPLG with IGFWG and DFSWG are examples of the cross-disciplinary approach of AFI members in the development of their bottom-up developed knowledge products and related peer review/support services.

Once again, allow me to commend all members of DFS, FIS and IGF working groups for demonstrating content leadership by contributing to the development of knowledge products and participating in peer learning/ knowledge exchange programs.

Despite the positive results, we must remain focused in crafting the right policy intervention and aligning our perspective as the reality is still that 1.7 billion people are financially excluded and the gender gap has been stuck since 2011. With members having committed under the Denarau Action Plan to halve their respective gender access to finance gaps by the end of 2021, this deadline is fast approaching, and we need to redouble our efforts to ensure financial inclusion is available for all and no one is left behind. This is particularly more important as we place more emphasis during the COVID-19 induced recovery period.

I wish to end by thanking you for your participation and thanking the Governor and team at the Bank of Ghana and my colleagues at AFI for organizing this joint working group meeting. I wish you all a fruitful and positive deliberations and wish you all a successful week.

Let me stop here so that you can all get on with the discussions.


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