Eliki Boletawa delivering his opening remarks for the South Asia Regional Initiative on Financial Inclusion and Regional Training on Digital Payment Innovation

19 July 2022

South Asia Region Financial Inclusion Initiative (SARFII) Preparatory Meeting – Opening Remarks by AFI Policy Programs & Implementation Director Eliki Boletawa

Deputy Governor Bam Bahadur Mishra, delegates from South Asian member institutions, colleagues from AFI management unit, ladies and gentlemen, good day and a warm welcome to the preparatory meeting of the launch of South Asia Region Financial Inclusion Initiative (SARFII) and Nepal Rastra Bank – AFI Regional Training on Leveraging Payment Innovations for Accelerated Financial Inclusion in South Asia from 19-21 July 2022.

I would like to extend my appreciation to NRB for a strong collaboration in co-hosting this important event which aims to achieve important outcomes supporting the launch of SARFII at the GPF in Jordan, September 2022.

AFI also highly values the contribution and guidance that NRB continues to provide as a member of the AFI Board of Directors since it was elected to the Board since September 2019

The main objectives of the SARFII preparatory meeting are twofold:

  1. Identify the key priorities to build sustainable recovery in response to the pandemic in the South Asia region based on the guidance provided by the leader in South Asia Leaders Roundtable which was held virtually in November 2021.
  2. Develop a regional action plan which will be presented to the leaders at the GPF for further guidance and endorsement.

The preparatory meeting will be followed by a 2-day regional training on leveraging payment innovations for accelerated financial inclusion in South Asia. South Asia region is a cradle of innovation thriving in a vibrant market that is supported by progressive regulators who understand the value of financial inclusion. Over the last 10 years the region has made significant strides in providing access to the unbanked and the underbanked. As per the latest Findex report the financial inclusion levels in the region have gone up from 23 percent (2011) to 40 percent (2021) and regulators in response to the pandemic have further embraced digital transformation to enhance financial inclusion and build a resilient, inclusive and sustainable recovery.

With approximately 150 million adults still without access to formal financial institutions, there are significant opportunities for innovation in DFS and specifically, payments could pave the way for accelerated financial Inclusion in the region.

The South Asia region acknowledges the great potential of digital financial services, and FinTech solutions in accelerating financial inclusion of vulnerable groups such as women and the youth. While countries within the region are currently at different levels of FinTech adoption, regulators are faced with the challenge of promoting innovation in the financial sector while ensuring consumer safety and financial stability.

Hence, the training will look at the role of payment innovations in accelerating financial inclusion while ensuring adequate mitigation of emerging consumer protection risks. DFS and consumer protection for DFS were identified as some of the areas of focus within the region.

The training will also contribute to a multi-year plan for collaborative work on financial inclusion in the region under the SARFII to be launched during the 2022 Global Policy Forum. This training will be anchored on several AFI Publications such as the Policy Model on Consumer Protection for DFS, Consumer Protection for DFS: A Survey of the Policy Landscape, Digital Financial Literacy Toolkit and Policy Note for Digital Financial Literacy for ASEAN.

Keeping this background in mind the regional member training for building inclusive digital payments ecosystem in the South Asia region, will have the following two main objectives

  1. Identify the regulatory and infrastructure requirements for developing a robust and inclusive digital payments ecosystem.
  2. List actual and potential risks emerging from innovative payment solutions especially from consumer protection and market conduct perspective and design corresponding measures from regulator and market player perspective to mitigate them to protect the vulnerable.

I am confident that the discussions and deliberations which will be held over the course of next 3 days will play an important role in advancing regional cooperation on financial inclusion in the South Asia region and achieving the regional goals.

On this note, I wish to thank you all once again for your participation and look forward to working with member countries bilaterally and through the regional initiative to enhance and/or develop innovative policy solutions which will further advance the financial inclusion goals in the region.

Thank you.

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