It is with much gratitude to stand here this morning, on behalf of the Government of Malawi and on my own behalf, as Governor of the Reserve Bank of Malawi, to welcome you, our distinguished delegates to Malawi, the Warm Heart of Africa. My humble duty this morning is to officially open this very important meeting, “2023 Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) Working Groups Convergence meeting” for members of three Working Groups: Consumer Empowerment and Market Conduct Working Group; Financial Inclusion Strategy and Peer Learning Working Group; and Financial Inclusion Data Working Group.
To begin with, allow me to extend our gratitude to AFI’s Management for giving Malawi an opportunity to co-host this year’s Convergence Meetings during these challenging times when Malawi is going through the effects and impact of global climate change.
As some of you might be aware, Malawi has recently been hit by the Cyclone Freddy where many people, especially in the Southern Region have been affected in one way or another. This is one of the worst tropical storms in our country’s history and a reminder for all of us to be conscious and mindful of the impact of climate change. This calls for urgent and appropriate climate change mitigation and adaptation policies, including promotion of green finance policies and initiatives.
I wish to commend AFI for putting in place a Green Finance Working Group where members of the network, including Malawi, can collaborate and share knowledge and experiences on how to ensure development of climate risk financial inclusion policies, as our planet is hit by global warming and increasingly unpredictable natural disasters.
The Reserve Bank of Malawi’s collaboration with AFI has grown stronger over the years. The AFI network has greatly helped Malawi to shape our financial inclusion policies and frameworks. We have been leveraging on AFI knowledge products and engagements with peers in the network to inform development of our country’s financial inclusion policies including framework on consumer protection, agency banking, digital financial services, and gender inclusive finance.
Recently, Malawi, undertook knowledge exchange visits to various countries in the network such as Eswatini, Nepal, Rwanda, Nigeria where we acquired lessons on various financial inclusion areas. Today’s meeting provides us with yet another opportunity to engage with the delegates from different countries, share experiences and explore innovative ways tofurther push the frontiers of financial inclusion through dialogue.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Malawi has come a long way in promoting the financial inclusion agenda, with the Reserve Bank of Malawi at the forefront. The implementation of several policy measures geared towards banking the ‘unbanked’ and formalising the informal financial sector, constitutes integral parts of the overall National Strategy for Financial Inclusion to promote an inclusive financial system in the country.
The Bank established a Consumer Protection and Financial Literacy Unit within the Central Bank in 2011 to coordinate the implementation of consumer protection and financial literacy programs to help the underserved population become aware and knowledgeable of the financial landscape. The Bank also facilitated the legislation of the Payment Systems Act in 2017 to provide an enabling legal and regulatory environment for the orderly development of the payment ecosystem. These connect seamlessly with the country’s National Strategy for Financial Inclusion framework.
Broadly, the Malawi’s National Strategy for Financial Inclusion supports the agenda of increasing the availability of affordable and quality financial services that are provided by sound, responsible, and innovative financial institutions to the populace.
In the revised National Strategy for Financial Inclusion, Malawi has committed to increase access to formal financial services to 75 percent from 46.1 percent of the adult population by 2027. The increase in access to financial services is expected to create economic opportunities and contribute to wealth creation and poverty reduction.
The concept of financial digitalisation has proven to be a key pillar for financial inclusiveness especially during the pandemic era. With this backdrop underpinning Malawi’s digitilisation agenda, a Digital Financial Services (DFS) Policy was embedded in different legislations to enhance the use of digital infrastructure, and consequently support the emergence and growth of fintechs.
On women financial inclusion, the Bank has spearheaded various initiatives including development of a Gender Inclusive Finance Roadmap under AFI’s in-country initiative grant. The initiatives demonstrate our strong commitment to the AFI Denarau Action Plan.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In line with our Maya Declaration Commitments and other subsequent commitments, the Reserve Bank, in collaboration with other key stakeholders, is championing and coordinating implementation of the country’s National Financial Literacy Program whose main objective is to build a financially literate nation and ensure that all members of the population have access to, and are using relevant financial services and products.
Accordingly, since 2012 the Bank has, in collaboration with key stakeholders including financial industry associations, Government line ministries, civil society organizations and development partners, been coordinating implementation of various financial literacy initiatives targeting different segments of the population. These include targeted financial literacy programs for Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), farmers, the youth, women and members of Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs). Further, the Bank has been implementing targeted financial literacy awareness weeks focusing on different financial literacy topical issues i.e. insurance, credit management, pension, investor education topics, among others.
Another milestone in as far as financial literacy is concerned, is the integration of financial literacy in the Malawi National Secondary School Curriculum which was rolled out inSeptember 2015. The country’s financial literacy’s strategy is undergoing a review and a copy will soon be shared with various jurisdictions for peer review.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Despite all these initiatives, financial literacy levels for many Malawians, especially for the underserved segments of the population such as MSMEs, the youth, women, members of VSLAs, farmers, remain very low.Financial literacy outreach has not been significant, due to among others, limited human resources, on the part of the Reserve Bank. In this regard, we have just recruited 22 (Twenty-Two) Financial Educators who will be implementing financial literacy programs, particularly in the rural areas, on behalf of the Reserve Bank.We wish to applaud AFI and various member countries that Malawi has been engaging with for lessons and experiences shared on the financial inclusion agenda.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
As you can see, Malawi has benefited a lot from engagements with AFI through participation in working group meetings, peer reviews, in country financial inclusion policy grants, exchange visits, just to mention a few. This Convergence Meeting has therefore come at the right time as we pursue our Government’s Top Agenda of achieving an Inclusively Wealth Creation and Self-Reliance Nation as stipulated in the Malawi Vision 2063.
We believe that financial inclusion is a gateway to Wealth Creation and Improved Living Standards for Malawians and the African Continent at large. We therefore expect to learn more on the financial inclusion agenda from various countries represented here.
I am informed that members will also have a chance to tour our beautiful country during the week. Please make sure that you try our various local foods especially the Lake Malawi Tilapia locally called ‘chambo’ fish when you visit our fresh water, Lake Malawi.
Finally, Ladies and Gentlemen, let me thank AFI once again for this great honour for Malawi to co-host the 2023 Convergence Working Groups meetings and encourage members of the various working groups to share their knowledge and experiences during the deliberations. Let me also thank representatives from different stakeholder institutions for your presence during this official opening meeting.
A special Thank You goes to the local organising team for working tirelessly to make this event a success.
Thank you for your attention. May God bless you all.