Nepal Rastra Bank Deputy Governor Bam Bahadur Mishra delivering 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 Deputy Governor Bam Bahadur Mishra, Nepal Rastra Bank

Eliki Boletawa, AFI member country focal points, participants, and ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning and a very warm welcome to you all in this virtual preparatory meeting and regional training of the South Asia Region Financial Inclusion Initiative (SARFII).

Today, I am very pleased to welcome you-the distinguished delegates from different geographical regions and it gives me immense pleasure to express that NRB has the privilege to co-host this technical preparatory meeting in virtual mode. Today is a special day, with this pre-launch of AFI-SARFII (South Asia Regional Financial Inclusion Initiative) which is scheduled for an official launch at GPF in Jordan in September 2022.

The main objective of this meeting is to jointly develop, a draft action plan for SARFII and to endorse that action plan at the launch of the initiative at the Global Policy Forum (GPF) in Jordan. I believe that this meeting will further enhance and strengthen the cooperation and coordination between AFI and members in South Asia.

As is known, AFI is a global network regarding financial inclusion which was established in 2008 for promoting innovative financial inclusion policies and expanding financial access to the unbanked and under-banked. In that regard, Nepal to further its financial inclusion activities became a member of AFI in January 12, 2010. Since, its membership, Nepal Rastra Bank has been regularly participating in programs organized by AFI. Over the last 18 months, I am pleased to see the developments and efforts which have been undertaken by both south Asian member institutions and AFI to conceptualize and co-develop a regional program to advance the regional goals on financial inclusion. SARFII, which is also a part of AFII will act as a catalyst to further advance our work in the region on financial inclusion by sharing regional knowledge and translating global financial inclusion issues into practical implementation at the regional and national level. This preparatory meeting will support two main objectives such as:

(i) Discuss and deliberate on key priorities for the region based on the guidance provided by the leaders in Leaders Roundtable organized in November 2021.
(ii) Develop an action plan which can then be presented to leaders at the GPF for guidance and endorsement and this preparatory meeting.

This will be followed by a two-day regional training on leveraging payment innovations to accelerate financial inclusion in South Asia. Digital transformation has been one of the key priorities in the South Asia region and this training will further support capacity building of technical staff on this important topic. South Asian countries have done significantly well in providing access to financial inclusion over the last decade.

South Asian Central Bank policymakers have taken the mandate of financial inclusion very seriously and implemented various policies over the years to continue providing access to the unbanked and the underbanked. Most of the South Asian countries are either developing or have already developed their national financial inclusion strategies and now are in the implementation phase, this shows commitment from all the stakeholders within our respective countries to further advance financial inclusion.

Despite the devastating impact of the pandemic, the regulators have embraced digital transformation as one of the key response to build a resilient, inclusive and sustainable recovery. At Nepal Rastra Bank we have taken series of initiatives where NRB has established Financial Inclusion and Consumer Protection Division with effect from July 17, 2022. NRB has formulated Financial Literacy Framework 2020 in technical and financial support of AFI which acts as a guiding principal of financial education activities that aims to facilitate financial literacy activities through licensed banks and financial institution. Similarly, AFI-Member Series Document, Financial Inclusion Index and Dashboard has been prepared in collaboration with AFI.

NRB in order to increase access to finance; has issued directives on privileged credit like deprived sector credit, priority sector credit, productive sector credit and interest subsidized credit. Likewise, commercial bank’s branches now has reached to 751 local levels out of 753 local levels and 67.3 percent youths had access to bank account as per the study of Nepal Rastra Bank published in 2021 that indicates Nepal has gained a significant progress in financial literacy as well as in inclusion status, which is a good indication for a country like Nepal. Thus, in coming days as well, being a part of AFI, I hope SARFII will also provide the continuous technical and financial support in financial literacy, inclusion, DFS and payment.

Despite all the work we have done so far, there is no doubt that more needs to be done. I firmly believe AFIs DNA of Peer to peer knowledge exchange of practical solutions between regulators and Capacity Building will facilitate the implementation of impactful policy changes that will benefit fellow regulators and provide further impetus to the good work which is already happening in the region.

I hope the outcome of this preparatory meeting and regional training will help us chart a direction for the next phase of accelerated growth for financial inclusion policy, intervention, and outcomes in the South Asia region.

Lastly, I would like to welcome you again in this preparatory meeting and regional training and open this floor for your interactive and prolific discussion which can further enhance regional cooperation and integration.

Thank You.

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