Dr. Eliki Boletawa, Director, Policy Programs & Implementation, AFI

26 February 2024

Regional Joint Learning Program on Developing and Implementing Financial Inclusion Policies and Regulations for Women-led MSMEs – Opening Remarks by Dr. Eliki Boletawa, AFI Director, Policy Programs & Implementation

It is my honor on behalf of Dr. Alfred Hannig, to welcome you all to this Joint learning Program (JLP) on Developing and Implementing Financial Policy and Regulations for Women-Led MSMEs (WMSMEs). On behalf of AFI, I sincerely appreciate the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), for co-hosting this JLP and especially in this beautiful setting, surrounded by the serenity of wildlife and nature at Victoria Falls. Let me also take the opportunity to acknowledge the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development in Zimbabwe, which became a principal member of AFI in June 2023. We look forward to their active involvement in the activities of the network.

We are excited to co-host this JLP with the RBZ as the first AFI event in Zimbabwe. RBZ has been a principal member of AFI since February 2012, and has demonstrated commitment to advancing financial inclusion of underserved populations, including women, youth, smallholder and rural populations and SMEs. As a testament to their commitment to gender inclusive finance, RBZ was one of 11 inaugural Gender Inclusive Finance ambassador institutions recognized at the 2019 GPF. In addition, the RBZ, represented by Deputy Governor J.T. Chipika, is one of the seven Gender Inclusive Finance Committee members, a board committee that provides strategic oversight to the implementation of the Denarau Action Plan by the AFI network. Thank you, Deputy Governor, for your invaluable contributions you have made to the GIF workstream over the years and we sincerely appreciate your presence at the event today. RBZ is also an active member in six of AFI’s seven working groups, a demonstration of the growth that RBZ has experienced over the years in promoting financial inclusion and generous sharing of their learning with peers in the network.

This JLP is supported by the African Development Bank (AfDB) under the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) program. The AFAWA program seeks to facilitate improved access to financial services by women led MSMEs through advancing a holistic and enabling regulatory ecosystem in various African countries. In the first phase of the program, case studies were conducted on the financial inclusion policy landscape for WMSMEs in seven African countries, including Zimbabwe. Under this collaborative agreement between AFI and AfDB, members can look forward to more capacity building, knowledge exchange and technical assistance programs on the topic of WMSMEs.

Dear Participants, across the globe, MSMEs are recognized as major drivers of economic development and GDP growth, employment creation and innovation, particularly in developing and emerging countries. MSMEs represent about 90% of businesses and more than 50% of employment worldwide, while formal SMEs alone contribute up to 40% of national income (GDP) in emerging economies. In spite of their contribution to global GDP, access to finance remains a constraint to their development and growth. This is especially so for WMSMEs who despite accounting for approximately a third of MSMEs globally, face more challenges compared to their male counterparts. According to the World Bank’s Report, Profiting from Parity, the performance of female-owned businesses consistently lags behind that of male-owned businesses. This is attributed to numerous factors including discriminating legal environments, social and cultural norms and lack of awareness about legal rights, economic, and training opportunities. 

African governments and policymakers recognize the need to act to expand opportunities for female entrepreneurs to be agents of growth and job creation on the continent. AFI has been at the forefront of advocating for the advancement of financial inclusion of women and women led MSMEs as articulated in the 10-point Denarau Action Plan. In this vein, AFI has pursued various initiatives to strengthen the capacity of members to facilitate access to finance by women. This  includes  mainstreaming gender in all financial inclusion policy areas and providing policy guidance through knowledge products such as AFI’s Policy Framework for Women-Led MSME Access to Finance.

This JLP is hosted in Zimbabwe whose economy is driven by the MSME sector with over 1.95 million MSMEs in operation in 2022, with an estimated 60% of these are owned by women. The MSME sector in Zimbabwe also provides employment to 1.7 million adults, underscoring its role in employment creation and overall economic growth objectives of the country. The MSMEs was identified as a special interest group in the National Financial Inclusion Strategy 1 2016-2020 (NFIS1), resulting in the successful implementation of innovative policies and regulations aligned to the 6 pillars of the Policy Framework for Women-Led MSME Access to Finance. Through these measures, access to finance by MSME grew from 18% in 2012 to 95% of MSMEs formally served while formally banked MSMEs improved from 14% in 2014 to 40% of MSMEs in 2022. The critical steps to attaining these results will be shared in this JLP.

It is my hope that you will familiarize yourself with the Policy Framework for Women-Led MSME Access to Finance and the practical examples shared by RBZ and the stakeholders in Zimbabwe, as well as other member institutions, will enable you to identify opportunities to customize the Policy Framework to develop suitable financial inclusion policies to address the challenges faced by WMSMEs in their jurisdictions. Over the next four days, you will learn about the changes made to create an enabling environment for the financial inclusion of WMSMEs, the role of sex-disaggregated data in policy development, capacity building initiatives to address supply and demand side constraints, the role of DFS in accelerating access to finance by women, interventions to enhance access to credit and the importance of promoting women’s leadership in business sectors.

Dear Participants, AFI constantly reviews its services to ensure that they remain relevant to the evolving needs of its members. This in 2023, AFI started offering five new online courses under the AFI Educate banner, covering various topics relevant to financial inclusion and specifically one including an in-depth coverage of the Policy Framework on Women Led MSME Access to Finance. The courses are open not only to AFI members but also relevant stakeholders who you think will benefit from the course. I urge you to visit the AFI Educate website on www.afieducate.afi-global.org and/or ask the AFI team for more details and encourage relevant others to sign up for the courses.  AFI is set to launch four new online courses this year.

In conclusion, I would like to urge participants to make the most of this opportunity to learn from the experienced speakers lined up for this program. I hope that you will also take time to appreciate the captivating beauty of the mighty Victoria Falls and hopefully catch a rainbow in the horizon.  I wish you all a wonderful week ahead.

© Alliance for Financial Inclusion 2009-2024