14 September 2020

AFI’s Gender Inclusive Finance Webinar on Integrating Gender Considerations into COVID-19 Policy Solutions – Opening Remarks by Dr. Alfred Hannig, AFI Executive Director

Good afternoon.

Let me start by saying Your Excellency, Dr. Ernest Addison, Governor, Bank of Ghana; Elsie Addo Awadzi, Second Deputy Governor, Bank of Ghana; Governors, Deputy Governors.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a very important day for AFI.

It is not only a great honor for me to welcome you to the webinar “Integrating Gender Considerations into COVID-19 Policy Solutions,” I think it is also another milestone on our path towards achieving the ambitious goals under the Denarau Action Plan that the AFI members have committed to during the GPF in Fiji in 2016.

I would like to thank all participants for joining, despite being under different circumstances and I could see that we have quite a crowd from the Pacific as well as Latin America on the other side, although it is a different time where you are at the moment.

These are troubling times, and recognizing this, we are looking forward to seeing all of you face-to-face as soon as possible. As you know, when we do an important event, we are asking ourselves, why are we actually doing this? Why are we working on this?

Perhaps, I should first say that AFI has been quite strategic and working very systematically into incorporating the Gender Inclusive Finance workstream into all our workstreams. Many of our members have driven this forward. We see it though many of the activities in the network including the in-country implementation efforts and we are indeed, reinforcing the policy programs support through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) lenses by incorporating considerations of gender inclusive finance.

We also see this meeting today as an example of how we, as an organization, are not being paralyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that we continue to work to provide support so that our members would be able to overcome the challenges faster.

So, it is all about agility. Agility in a situation which I think is highly complex and very challenging for our members and we are trying to do our best for members in this case here again in the driving seat.

And the third point, and maybe this is for some of you, most important of all because it really shows the ownership and governance of AFI, we have been encouraged to organize this webinar by the the Bank of Ghana. It was their initiative, and we of course, quickly picked it up and found it very interesting, However, the original idea was actually how can we better understand what is happening on the ground, what is happening for the small and medium enterprise out there in the aftermath of the outbreak of the health crisis, what is the impact on the women and the small enterprises and that the what female enterprises and the families and so forth. This was our question from the very inspiring the Bank of Ghana that has brought it to us.

The global economic challenge that the COVID-19 is presenting us with are obviously very dramatic particularly for the disadvantaged population groups such as women, the young people, the FDPs, and those living with disabilities. We want to be very serious moving forward on what we committed to in Kigali when we said that no one should be left behind, and the gender inclusive finance takes bigger burden in actually driving this forward towards achievement of this objective.

I have already used the word, ‘agility.’ I want to acknowledge how hard many of the populations have been hit by the pandemic and I also want to highlight how agile we as members of AFI and AFI Management Unit are, and how agile we have to be during these times. We are very lucky that through our very agile membership, we actually can respond quickly to events and develop initiative to mitigate the negative impacts of this crisis.

Now, I also wanted to say that we emphasize the role of the members in building back a more inclusive economy and how they can use the Denarau Action Plan to support this. I want to highlight the work of the GIF committee over the past four as well as members who joined last week at the AGM and will take this forward. This  is a very impressive signal from the members.

We should also not forget that everything we do is embedded in this important and actually one of the main commitments of the Denarau Action Plan,  which is to halve the respective gender gaps in the different AFI jurisdictions by the end of 2021. We can already see that a lot of members have made significant progress towards this end. But we still have opportunities to capture if we are going to accelerate progress and ensure that no one is left behind.

We believe that actually COVID-19 is now giving us another opportunity to build a “better normal”. We have always said, the Denarau Action Plan is a public good. That is why we need to reflect on strong ongoing partnerships. We have interests in founding partners and other opportunities in addition to the one we already have in place. We are now taking this forward with support from Gates Foundation, which is a new project, there is new support from Mastercard Foundation. We have ongoing support from Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and we are also looking into new partnerships with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the African Development Bank to extend AFI’s Leadership and Diversity for Regulators program with Women’s World Banking. These ongoing and potentially new projects will further strengthen the expert’s knowledge at the network that we can also make available for the members.

What are the outcomes of this session and the next steps.  As you look at the  agenda, I assure you that a lot of work has gone into this to make it logically sound, but also rich in terms of outcome of the session. The session is aimed to capture what you, the members, are already doing to ensure your response to COVID-19 that actively includes the gender consideration. We are also working to identify what additional support you may need to increase your existing work. And after this session, we will be very busy capturing your responses in a policy paper and develop a set of future engagements to support your work to meet your Denarau Action Plan commitments. We also need to link our work to what will be happening in the recovery phrase and we are now responding. This is an immediate response to COVID-19 but we also need to put this into perspective of what is going to happen in the medium and long term.

As I said, this crisis can even be an opportunity to do more, to do better, but it will definitely only come to fruition when we go in the recovery phrase.  I think this is the exciting part that we have ahead of us.

This work here will also include a toolkit to help the members better integrate gender considerations into their policy work including their responses to COVID-19 and to develop an enabling regulatory environment for gender-sensitive services and products.

I would also like to echo what (Head of AFI GIF) Helen Walbey just said and to commend the Bank of Ghana for co-hosting this meeting.  I would also like to thank all the other speakers in particular our high-level speakers who will be sharing their experiences for the next few hours.

I really recommend that participants use the format that we have put up today and get actively involved in the breakout sessions and bring forward their gender focused solutions and policies used to effectively respond to COVID-19 in a gender sensitive way and to of course pave the way for a speedy recovery that can take into account the SDGs, that I think we are very serious about.

I wish you a wonderful and fruitful discussion. Hopefully, we will see you in the next meeting to take this forward.

Thank you so much.

© Alliance for Financial Inclusion 2009-2021