Executive Director's Opening Speech at the 2017 Global Policy Forum (GPF)


The 2017 AFI Global Policy Forum (GPF)
Thursday, 14 September 2017, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt

Opening Remarks by AFI Executive Director, Dr. Alfred Hannig

His Excellency Mr. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi - President of The Arab Republic of Egypt

Honorable Eng Sherif Ismail - Prime Minister of The Arab Republic of Egypt

Mr. Tarek Amer, Governor, Central Bank of Egypt

Prof. Benno Ndulu, Governor Bank of Tanzania (outgoing Chair of the AFI Board)

Dr. Isaac Sidney Ferreira, Deputy Governor Banco Central do Brasil (Incoming Chair of the AFI Board)

Mr. Abdellatif Jouahri, Governor, Bank Al-Maghrib

Dr. Abdul Rahman Al Hamidy, Arab Monetary Fund Director General Chairman of the Board

Mrs. Ute Klamert, Director General, Europe, Mediterranean Sea and Central Asia, GIZ

Welcome to the 9th AFI Global Policy Forum in the beautiful location of Sharm El-Sheikh.

Your Excellency, Mr. President, and Honorable Prime Minister, perhaps allow me to say that the mere fact that your Government is represented at the highest level at this event clearly indicates the importance of financial inclusion for Egypt. Thank you for all your support.

We have seen several great Global Policy Forums (GPF), and we have learned over the years that every Forum is different. This year’s GPF is co-hosted by the Central Bank of Egypt, and everyone in this room is more than aware that we are going to have another amazing annual event. It is heartening to see what our members do every year when they invite the global financial community to join hands at the Forum.

Governor Tarek Amer, let me therefore take the opportunity and thank you for your outstanding support, and all the human and financial resources that you have put into this event to give AFI another highly successful GPF.

Indeed, Egypt has attracted this year, literally, a “Financial Inclusion Pilgrimage” to the Arab Region. It is the first time the Forum is held in this region — with more than 700 delegates from 95 countries including members and partners.  Let me please emphasize that the participation in this Forum — unlike to other annual gatherings whereby I don’t want to refer to any specific one — is voluntary! Everyone has come here out of interest and sense of belonging. We are very proud of that.

This raises the question: What is in the Forum? What makes it so attractive to come to the GPF? Please allow me to share with you two potential reasons why this financial inclusion pilgrimage takes place:

  • First, it is the relevance of the topic. Your Excellency, Mr. President, financial inclusion is today at the core of any economic policy and development agenda. Financial stability and financial inclusion are important policy objectives these days. There is growing consensus that these objectives can be mutually reinforcing and that a coordinated approach, if pursued in a coherent manner, can help policymakers to build a resilient and inclusive financial sector, and support economic growth.
  • Digital Financial Services (DFS) play a key role in driving financial inclusion and therefore, have a huge potential to stimulate economic growth. According to a study by the McKinsey Global Institute, which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the widespread use of digital finance could boost annual GDP of all emerging economies by US$3.7 trillion by 2025. This growth could, according to the study, result in the creation of 95 million new jobs through the use of DFS.
  • In driving financial inclusion, central banks and other financial regulators have a role to play. As the experience of emerging and developing economies clearly indicate, financial regulators often successfully lead the conceptualization and implementation of national financial inclusion frameworks. Among the AFI membership, many financial regulators have incorporated financial inclusion into their mandate. To date, 67% of the AFI members (114 institutions from 95 countries) have established financial inclusion organizational units. Another 12% of members are in the process of establishing such units. In the beginning of July, I had the privilege to attend the International Finance Congress hosted by the Central Bank of the Russian Federation in St. Petersburg. The opening panel of this impressive event addressed the issue of “Finance for Development.” A few speakers on this panel shared the view that central bankers should focus on what they are traditionally good at, namely to ensure monetary stability. But there were other speakers, in particular former Governor of Bank Negara Malaysia, Mme. Zeti, who shared the experience of a country, which has impressively shown how leadership of the central bank can make a difference in terms of ensuring financial stability and driving economic growth through financial inclusion. This presentation was applauded by the audience.
  • Why is it attractive to come to the GPF? The second reason I wanted to give you refers to the unique cooperation model AFI is using. Peer learning, open mutual exchange, and knowledge sharing among 114 institutions from 95 countries, and their partners and stakeholders, with participants from almost every corner of the globe is an important movement — especially in times of increasing isolationism, which all of us perceive. Times which are characterized by political and economic disintegration, cultural and ethnic segregation, in some cases, even racism. We believe, Your Excellency, Mr. President, that in such times, it is even more important to provide space to join hands, learn from each other and allow the free flow of information. In our world, diversity is an asset. We, therefore, congratulate Egypt for having chosen this theme for the Forum: Exploring Diversity, Promoting Inclusion.

So, here we are in Egypt, as I said before for the very first time that the Arab Region welcomes AFI. Let me emphasize that AFI also welcomes the Arab Region. We are proud to launch today the Financial Inclusion Initiative for the Arab Region (in short FIARI) together with our partners, the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF) and the German International Cooperation (GIZ). The launch of FIARI is an important step forward to drive financial inclusion in the Arab region, and I would like to mention this launch as the first key deliverable of this year’s GPF. Having launched FIARI together with our partners AMF and GIZ here today, we hope that more Arab countries will join the network in the near future.

The second key deliverable of the Forum is the Sharm El Sheikh Accord on Financial Inclusion and Climate Change. This global commitment originates from the GPF in Maputo/Mosambique two years ago, when AFI members for the first time requested the network to incorporate policy and regulatory approaches to drive sustainable financial inclusion into the work streams, which would be aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals. We may wonder why financial regulators should address this question. Let me perhaps quote, in this context, a central bank governor who many of us know. I am speaking of Mark Carney, the Governor of Bank of England who emphasized at an event of Lloyds of London on 29 September, 2015 that “once climate change becomes a defining issue for financial stability, it may already be too late.” I believe that many of our members would share this statement, and some have already developed policy and regulatory approaches to ensure sustainable financial inclusion.

The Sharm El-Sheikh Accord will be a big step for the network, but we can also start contributing to climate change with ourselves right here. I am holding up this cup here that everyone should have found on his or her chair in this room. The cup is made from natural straw and wheat. It is low carbon, non-toxic, and temperature resistant. Did you know that it takes 1,000 years for biological degrading of a plastic cup? I would like to encourage everyone to align with the Sharm El-Sheikh Accord right here and use this cup instead of plastic cups, which are offered outside. You can also bring this cup home as a souvenir and use it in your own organization. Thank you for doing so.

The third deliverable of this year’s GPF is on women’s financial inclusion. We have come a long way since last year at the GPF in Fiji, when the AFI membership endorsed the Denarau Action Plan. The Gender and Women’s Financial Inclusion Committee of AFI, meanwhile, is reporting substantial progress, and tomorrow we expect to take note of more than 20 new country commitments on women’s financial inclusion.

I would like to thank our partners Women’s World Banking, the Global Banking Alliance, the World Bank, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for their great collaboration under the Denarau Action Plan. All these efforts are meant to narrow down the gender gap in financial inclusion as we committed in Fiji last year.  

Before I conclude, I would like to deliver a few words of thanks:

  • I would like to thank our outgoing Chair, Prof. Benno Ndulu, Governor of the Central Bank of Tanzania, for his leadership and wisdom during the critical period of AFI’s transition from a project to an international organization, but also for his guidance and personal mentorship during his term at the helm of AFI.
  • I would also like to thank our incoming Chair, Deputy Governor, Dr. Isaac Ferreira, from Central Bank of Brazil for his tremendous engagement for AFI, and I would like to wish him all the best for the two years to come in this important role.
  • I would also like to thank our new Board members from Mongolia and Samoa who are both women to take up the role on the Board and join in to drive the Alliance forward.
  • Our appreciation and gratefulness goes once again to our host, the Central Bank of Egypt, and in particular to the organizing team, who has made incredible strides to make this Forum so very memorable and exciting.
  • I also would like to thank our members who have traveled from all corners of the globe to join the community here in Egypt.
  • Let me thank our Public Private Dialogue Partners: GSMA, Letshego, Mastercard, Visa, TransferTo and Software Group for all their contributions.
  • AFI is also grateful to the funders and investors: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Omidyar Network, IDRC and GIZ.
  • A word of thanks is also given to all the local sponsors who have supported Egypt’s efforts to organize an outstanding GPF.
  • Finally, let me also thank the AFI staff for the dedication and commitment to the organization and to the GPF.

I would like to end my remarks by quoting a proverb, which originates from this continent and, which best describes the spirit that brings us together today:

If you want to walk fast, you walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together.

So, we are here to walk together. Since we launched AFI eight years ago at the first GPF in Nairobi, we have already walked very far. But when I look at where we are today and what lies ahead of us, it feels that this is just the beginning.

Thank you very much, enjoy your Forum and — don’t forget your cup.

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