13 October 2022

Governor Rogério Lucas Zandamela, Banco de Moçambique – Keynote speech at the AFAWA-AFI roundtable on “Accelerating Financial Inclusion of women-owned small and medium enterprises (WSMEs) in Africa


President Adesina, constituents of the African Development Bank,

Ministers of Finance, fellow Governors and Deputy Governors of Central Banks in the Africa Region representing the AFI network distinguished partners, stakeholders, and guests.

Lades and Gentlemen’s,

I am delighted to welcome you to this joint dinner hosted by the African Development Bank and the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) As the Governor of the Bank of Mozambique and a long-time member of AFI, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the AFI network and also to convey a warm welcome from the AFI Executive Director, Dr. Alfred Hannig, who unfortunately could not be with us this evening. I also would like to acknowledge the outstanding leadership of AFI’s Gender-Inclusive Finance Committee, which is chaired by Deputy Governor Elsie Addo Awadzi from the Bank of Ghana, in advocating for women’s financial inclusion through smart policies and regulations.

We as African Central Banks are very pleased to see the continuing deepening of cooperation between the African Development Bank and AFI over the past years since the signing of the MoU between our organizations in 2017 in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire.

I commend the leadership of both institutions on the launch of the partnership of AfDB’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) and AFI to support policymakers, financial regulators, and other key stakeholders in designing and implementing gender-sensitive policies and regulations that increase access to finance for women’s small and medium enterprises (WSMEs) in Africa. 

The leaders of the AFI network in Africa and globally consider this unique partnership to be a milestone. It presents unprecedented opportunities for AfDB and AFI. The two institutions can advance shared objectives, in strengthening our collective thought leadership in gender inclusive finance, and to roll out practical and highly impactful activities on the ground that will drive and better women’s financial inclusion on the continent.

It also presents great momentum for building synergies with our strategic partners, such as the International Monetary Fund, which recently launched its Strategy on Mainstreaming Gender and whose representatives are with us this evening. 

The seven case studies recently developed in partnership with the AfDB provide excellent opportunities for members across Africa and beyond to learn about the financial policy and regulatory initiatives that are most successful in increasing access to finance.

I listened with interest to the points made by the President in his speech. I look forward to our in-person dialogue and open discussion later focusing on a vitally important shared objective – to enable women SMEs to contribute to Africa’s growth and prosperity through financial inclusion.

Both at present and as we look ahead, we face numerous challenges while we work to ensure an inclusive and sustainable post-COVID-19 economic recovery. Armed conflicts, shortages and disruptions, and worrying economic outlooks in many countries threaten to hinder even reverse progress in financial inclusion, particularly of women and vulnerable groups.

We live in a time when likeminded partnerships, such as this one, matter more than at any other time in the past. The fact we are able to come together this evening to build a more inclusive future is surely a positive step forward for us all.

Micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are our economies’ lifeblood. This is particularly true in developing countries. Globally, MSMEs represent about 90 percent of businesses and more than 50 percent of employment.

In Africa, they represent an estimated 80 percent of employment, with an estimated 44 million enterprises[1]. MSMEs also contribute significantly to gross domestic product and exports. Their development is a high priority for many of our governments across the continent.

Lades and Gentlemen’s,

The pandemic has had a disproportionate and negative effect on women and their businesses. Many businesses had to close, temporarily or permanently. Women had to carry extra burdens, such as unpaid work in looking after families and supporting extended families who were forced to return home from working away. They looked after the sick and took on the role of a teacher for children when schools closed. All these extra responsibilities took place under the shadow of increased levels of family tensions and in many cases even physical and economic violence against women.

It is imperative for us as leaders to recognize that women are not left behind as we emerge from the pandemic. We can make a difference: As financial regulators there is much more that we can do to support them and their businesses.

Regulators’ responses to date have included innovative solutions to provide emergency relief to women and other vulnerable groups. The most successful regulators in responding to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic were those that already had well-established coordination mechanisms to convene stakeholders in the financial ecosystem.

They already had good rails and a developed Digital Financial Services (DFS) ecosystem to run initiatives and they already had sex-disaggregated data to identify and understand the groups they needed to target most urgently.

During the pandemic AFI members recorded over 20 policy initiatives in Africa that target supporting women and their businesses.

We now have the opportunity to support those women who opened their first account during the pandemic, by enabling them to continue using the formal financial system.

This is a chance for increasing access to a greater range of savings, credit, insurance, and other products. Across much of Africa digital financial services have become a vital conduit to support women and their businesses.

In good times, DFS can be a cost-effective way to transact and save, as well as a way in which micro businesses can expand their customer base. During times of crisis, they have been a lifeline for social transfers and remittances.

As regulators we can use policy and regulation in innovative ways to help further this whilst at the same time ensure the gender gap in traditional access to finance is not replicated in the digital sphere.

In addition to the opportunities that DFS presents us with, there have been a number of key developments and commitments of the AFI membership to women SME’s financial inclusion.

Lades and Gentlemen’s,

Women are at the heart of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion and commitments to support their financial inclusion have been made publicly by members in the Maya Declaration on financial inclusion.

Launched at the 2011 AFI Global Policy Forum in Riviera Maya, Mexico, the Maya Declaration is a global initiative for responsible and sustainable financial inclusion that aims to reduce poverty and ensure financial stability for the benefit of all.

AFI member institutions have continued to make concrete financial inclusion targets, implement in-country policy improvements, and regularly share progress updates in the AFI Data Portal (ADP).

To date, there are 362 active Maya Declaration targets in Africa spanning 20 primary thematic areas with over 50 active Gender Inclusive Finance targets. These include a number made by member institutions covered by the seven case studies.

In September 2016 in Fiji AFI adopted the 10-point Denarau Action plan for gender inclusive finance with an overwhelming majority of votes of more than 90% of the members. The members updated the Denarau Action Plan at the recent AFI Global Policy Forum in Jordan last month.

The Plan works alongside the Maputo Accord on SME Financing, which was endorsed in Maputo Mozambique, in 2015. It recognizes the importance of SMEs in driving economic growth, employment creation and contributing to broaden sustainable financial inclusion and reducing poverty at the household level, especially through micro-enterprises.

Today’s announcement of the official launch of the AFAWA/AFI partnership will certainly leverage AFI’s efforts in the Gender Inclusive Finance space so far and become an additional push factor for the Maya Declaration targets.

A vibrant and sustainable women’s MSME sector goes beyond conventional economic and social contributions and, as the IMF recently noted, implementing gender inclusive finance is now macro-critical. It plays a key role in contributing to the fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the crucial principal of “Leave No One Behind”.

AFI members increasingly view financial inclusion of vulnerable groups as policy priority. The proportion of regulators in the AFI network who indicated that women’s financial inclusion is a high priority has increased from to 75 percent in mid-2022, from 58 percent in mid-2021.

AFI members have made substantial commitments through the Maya Declaration on financial inclusion. Of the 90 targets for women’s financial inclusion, 53 were made by AFI members in Africa. This includes the completed target set by the Bank of Mozambique to collect and use sex disaggregated data to promote the financial inclusion of women and to include gender mainstreaming within the Bank and the financial sector. This will contribute to gender equality in Mozambique.

These initiatives are the start of demonstrable progress. The global gender gap to access to formal financial services was a consistent nine percent between 2011 and 2017. In 2021 the World Bank Global Findex reported a decrease of the gap to six percent globally. While the gender gap has increased in Sub-Saharan African since 2011, it has decreased from 15 percent to 13 percent in the Middle East and North Africa.

The partnership between the African Development Bank’s AFAWA program and AFI will enable us to capitalize on progress and ensure that women across Africa are given the opportunities and tools to reach their full economic potential.

When women benefit, everyone in their family, community and society will benefit. We will combine our skills and make the most of our collective experiences and expertise, as well as the collective commitment of our members.

We will be able to move forward to develop practical and evidence-based financial policy solutions, solutions that increase access to and usage of quality, affordable and sustainable financial products, and services by women SMEs. This will enable women to not only sustain their businesses but to grow them and to thrive.

Lades and Gentlemen’s,

As we appreciate being able to come together at this leaders’ dinner, let us continue to consider ways to progress women SMEs’ access to finance to build inclusive growth, and strengthen the integrity and stability of financial systems.

We highly appreciate your personal engagement in this important initiative, Mr. President.


[1] African Business – https://african.business/2022/04/technology-information/unlocking-sme-potential-through-the-power-of-emerging-technology/#:~:text=Sub%2DSaharan%20Africa%20alone%20has,of%20jobs%20across%20the%20continent.

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