12 September 2019

2019 AFI Global Policy Forum – Opening Remarks by Dr. Alfred Hannig, AFI Executive Director

Hon Prime Minister, Dr. Édouard Ngirente, Republic of Rwanda

Your Excellency, the Governor, John Rwangombwa, National Bank of Rwanda

Mrs. Lobna Helal, Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Egypt, on behalf of H.E. Mr. Tarek Amer, Governor, Central Bank of Egypt, Incoming Chair of the AFI Board

Governors, Deputy Governors, Heads of Institutions,

Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

Our funding, intellectual and institutional partners,

Private sector representatives,

Dear Members,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to express appreciation to our host country, the beautiful land of the 1000 hills.

GPF is returning to Africa for the 4th time. After Kenya, South Africa, and Mocambique, we are today in Rwanda, a country which is not only so beautiful,  but also another hotspot of financial inclusion that has shown enormous progress in digital financial inclusion in the past decade.

I want to show a few visuals before I come to the theme of this year’s GPF. And the first one comes with a question to you: “Who of you has played monopoly, the game, as a child or as a young person?”

I recently went to buy a monopoly in Kuala Lumpur for my sons. When I unpacked the box at home, I saw this.

[Shows a slide with a photo of electronic monopoly]. 

Without realizing I had bought a cashless monopoly game! There were no banknotes, what you do is to use your device to pay for your purchases and receive money from your sales. Your money is stored on the cards. Now my question to you is who of you has played this version of the game?

I was so amazed that I sent an email to all staff asking who knows this version of the monopoly. The interesting outcome of the short survey was that my older colleagues also did not really know about the cashless monopoly. My younger colleagues, however, only knew about this version that you see on the picture.

Ashton, my 29-year-old colleague who does a great job at AFI and works harder than me when I was his age, was very familiar with the version you are seeing on the picture. He even told me about technology issues with the previous version of the game, which are now apparently sorted. So, this is not big news to my younger colleagues.

Let’s now have a look at this picture.

[Shows a slide with a photo of a toddler reading a book].

This little lady here is reading a book. She got it as a present from a very good friend of my wife. I have it here in my hand. The series of these books are called “Little Feminists” showing female leaders, activists, actors, and so forth.

[Shows a slide with a drawing of Rosa Parks which reads: “Rosa Parks sat on the bus and said equal rights for all”]

Here you can see what she is looking at.

[Shows a slide with pages from four children’s books which read: “Rosa Parks sat on the bus and said equal rights for all”; Indira Gandhi led a nation and showed that girls are powerful”; “Frida Khalo painted and showed that all girls are beautiful”, “Marie Curie experimented and proved that girls are brilliant”]

Of course, it is difficult to say what the little girl understands exactly when she looks at these books, but I am sure she will understand soon. The immediate effect, of these booklets in her hands was that her father was very taken by this. It dawned upon him why AFI members had done a good thing when they put point no. 10 on gender diversity and female leadership into the Denarau Action Plan.

I share these personal impressions with you because it connects us directly to the theme of this 11th Global Policy Forum here in Kigali: Using technology for the inclusion of Women and Youth.

Let’s first start with technology.

In the last decade, financial inclusion has ridden on the wave of a technological revolution that facilitated a dramatic reduction of the costs of retail banking and allowed the entrance of new financial market players, such as mobile network operators, payment platforms and, recently, even social networks. Today, as technology is moving even faster, we are witnessing a global convergence of policy and regulatory solutions in the Financial Inclusion and the Financial Technology (FinTech) space. Underlying the convergence of such solutions are the concerns of financial regulators all around the world regarding the risks of technology.

At AFI’s first Global Thought Leadership Conference held in Abidjan earlier this year, policymakers and regulators from both developed and developing countries highlighted the need to balance promotion of digital channels to deliver more inclusion, with attention to the risks of new technologies. These risks include cybersecurity, systems interdependencies, consumer data management and effective consumer protection that reinforce trust to digital financial services. Concerns on the risks of technology have more recently been brought to the forefront by the entry into financial services of the Big Techs. These global multi-billion user platforms hold the promise of efficiency gains and their potential ability to facilitate greater financial inclusion even in unchartered territories such as the broader issuance of cryptocurrencies backed by a reserve of assets.

At the same time, such innovations raise critical regulatory concerns and structural challenges. Given the complexity of the regulatory challenges raised by these developments, whilst it would be too early to make conclusive statements, it is already clearly apparent that global policy coordination and learning will be crucial to adopt policy choices that keep the risks in check while allowing to reap the benefits of the developmental value that such platforms when scaled may hold for financial inclusion. Conversely, emergence of sovereign fiat cryptocurrency may hold promise for financial inclusion.

Regarding the financial inclusion of women, we know that the gender gap has remained broadly unchanged over the last six years. This indicates that women’s account ownership is only growing at a similar rate as men’s, therefore, not quickly enough to narrow the gap. We are now starting to see progress with the implementation of the So far,  AFI, has not spoken much about the Youth. The truth of the matter is that the world is now home to more young adults than ever before. There are 1.8 billion of young people between the ages of 10 and 24 and approximately 90 percent of them live in developing countries.

According to the World Bank’s Global Findex data from 2017, 47 percent of young adults (aged 15-24) in developing countries are excluded from formal financial services, compared to 18 percent of young adults in high-income countries. Young people are also affected by low levels of financial capability. Both factors inhibit the possibilities for young people to benefit from long-term sustainable financial inclusion, especially at a time when the world is moving towards a platform economy.

Technology providers drive behavioral changes among the youth, whose views on data privacy in some markets may significantly differ from older generations. Many young people even emphasize the convenience they are experiencing as a result of digital transparency when a simple mouse click allows them to find exactly what they are looking for on digital platforms. These groups are growing up in an increasingly digitized environment and may value the convenience of digital platforms over the risks to their data privacy. And with continuing technological advances and improving skills, users themselves are beginning to shape the design and use of financial services. These emerging patterns of user behavior and demand for digital services among the youth segment create new challenges for most financial and consumer protection regulators. They also make the case for investing more into financial literacy for young people, as well as requiring innovation in how financial education is delivered to the young through new digital channels.

We want to express our appreciation to the National Bank of Rwanda for strongly encouraging AFI to select this GPF theme. The Kigali Statement, unanimously adopted by members yesterday will guide us to address those segments that are disproportionately suffering from financial exclusion. We recognize the importance of the topics which are included in the GPF theme. But it is not only the GPF, there will be more integration in our services. With the winding up of Child and Youth Finance International, we need to commit to put more emphasis on financial inclusion of the Youth. The Kigali Statement, which is the main deliverable of this year’s GPF, provides the framework for these commitments. It is a call to all actors in the financial inclusion arena to accelerate implementation of their commitments and LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND, by reaching the remaining 1.7 billion unbanked.

Allow me to highlight other important deliverables which are aligned to this year’s event:

Before I close, I would like to say a few words about the baskets which you can see at this year’s GPF exhibition. The exhibition features baskets from around our network to showcase the unity and diversity of our Alliance. Most of our members did not tell us they will bring them. They just keep appearing. (Ghana also brought lots of fantastic chocolate and placed them inside the baskets, we loved it).

Bringing these baskets from around the world, carrying them on numerous flights, shows how committed our members are to the cause and the Alliance. These baskets have made the exhibition special. You should have a look if you find the time.

We hope all baskets find a special place to be on display here in Rwanda.

The idea to bring the baskets came up when NBR suggested this year’s GPF logo showing the Rwandan basket: The Agasake.

The Agaseke has been a fundamental part of Rwandan cultural heritage for hundreds of years. It is the center piece of Rwanda’s coat of arms and a symbol of peace and unity. In fact, “Agaseke” is the word for peace in the Kinyarwanda language. Historically, the tradition of weaving the Agaseke basket was passed down from mothers to daughters to mark the transition into womanhood and to signify a mother’s care for her children as well as her country.

This network is place for global exchange and learning. In view of the technological convergence, we are convinced that global learning will help to address local challenges which will ensure that no one will be left behind. And kindly let me close with a quote from one of our members: “This is the future of Finance, we may not be aware of it now, but we will be”. These are the words of DG Sheila from the Central Bank of Kenya that I was able to pick up last night.

Thank you all and wish you a productive 11th GPF.

© Alliance for Financial Inclusion 2009-2021