Swaziland's NFIS Launch,
Thursday, 17 January, 2018
Opening Remarks by Norbert Mumba, Deputy Executive Director, AFI
His Excellency Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Swaziland, Dr Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini,
Hon. Minister of Finance, Senator Martin G. Dlamini,
Principal Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Mr Bheki Bhembe
Governor of the Central Bank of Swaziland, Mr Majozi Sithole,
CEO, Financial Services Regulatory Authority, Mr Sandile Dlamini
Senior Government Officials,
Staff from the Ministry of Finance and Central Bank of Swaziland
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure that I am here on behalf Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) for the launch of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) of Swaziland.
As you are aware, Ministry of Finance of Swaziland and Central Bank of Swaziland are members of AFI, a member-owned network, that promotes and develops evidence-based policy solutions that improve the lives of the people, particularly the poor, that have limited or no access to financial services. Today, the network consists of more than 100 institutions, mainly central banks and ministries of finance, from 94 emerging and developing countries that account for over 85% the world’s unbanked population.
It is therefore a great honor for me to recognize the constant efforts of the Government, Central Bank and other key stakeholders represented here today in joining hands to develop the national financial inclusion strategy - towards achieving inclusive economic growth and sustainable development, in alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs).
Hon. Prime Minister and distinguished participants, AFI members are of the conviction that inclusive economic and sustainable growth begins with financial inclusion. We believe that it plays a necessary role in integrating the unbanked and financially underserved into the formal economy, in stimulating job creation and employment, which all help to alleviate poverty, make the poor less vulnerable to financial shocks, reduce economic inequality, raise living standards for all segments of society, and contribute to financial stability.
We, therefore, applaud the development of this elaborate national financial inclusion strategy that is an essential catalyst to scale up and deepen financial inclusion in Swaziland as well as the Southern African region. A robust national financial inclusion strategy should be receptive to financial growth policies that consider gender equity with specific emphasis on access to finance for women. We have come to understand that the poor are not asking for favours but for a level playing field that is devoid of onerous processes that limits them from accessing quality financial services to better their lives. Through effective policies, particularly leveraging digital financial services (DFS), the lives of many can be uplifted and economic development would become more sustainable.
NFIS & AFI's role
Empirical evidence demonstrates that countries with national strategies have done relatively better than those without them in advancing financial inclusion. AFI’s own analysis of 46 countries for which policy profiles have been completed shows a correlation between a higher rate of increase in financial inclusion and having a national strategy in place.
Global trends show strong and ever-increasing interest in the development of National Financial Inclusion Strategies. As we speak, 44 member institutions have a national strategy in place and 20 are in the process of developing one.
The Alliance for Financial Inclusion was founded in 2006 on the idea that a global knowledge exchange platform was key to expanding and improving financial inclusion policy. AFI also provides annual capacity building and peer learning activities in various areas of financial inclusion policy including NFIS. For example – specifically related to NFIS, AFI has published 9 knowledge products, conducted two capacity building programmes and enabled peer reviews of NFIS strategy for 16 member countries.
Overall, during the past 11 years of our work, 260 financial inclusion policy improvements have been implemented by member institutions with support that they have credited to their engagement in AFI. Over 300 million poor people around the world are estimated to have benefitted from these policies.
Both Ministry of Swaziland and the Central Bank of Swaziland have been active members of the AFI network. Ministry of Finance is part of all 6 working groups (Consumer Empowerment & Market Conduct Working Group, Digital Financial Services Working Group, Financial Inclusion Data Working Group, Financial Inclusion Strategy Peer Learning Working Group, Global Standards Proportionality Working Group, and SME Finance Working Group) and the Central Bank is part of two working groups (DFSWG & FISPLG).
I would like to congratulate and express gratitude to the senior staff from the Ministry of Finance for the leadership they have provided to the working groups at a global level - David Myeni Chair of SMEFWG and Nomcebo Hadebe Co-Chair of FISPLG
Going on, Hon. Prime Minister and distinguished participants -
The Maya Declaration, an initiative launched in 2011 to unlock the economic potential of the two billion unbanked population through greater financial inclusion, further galvanized the development of national strategies as frameworks to assist implementation of countries’ Maya Declaration commitments. Currently, there are 63 commitments under the Maya Declaration with over 600 targets. 71 of these targets are related to the formulation and implementation of NFIS.
Through the Maya Commitments, Swaziland set out ambitious targets for itself, succeeding to develop and implement a National Strategy for Financial Inclusion, as we witness today. Some of the commitments made by Swaziland are:
- Finalize and have endorsed the National Financial Inclusion Strategy for Swaziland by 2017
- Increase the depth of Financial Inclusion, growing the percent of adults with access to two or more formal products from 43% (FinScope 2014) to 75%
- Develop and finalize the Financial Consumer Protection Strategy by 2017
- Establish the National Financial Literacy Framework by 2018
- Conduct and finalize the MSME FinScope Swaziland 2016 National Survey by 2017
Finally, Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance put together have attended 12 training and capacity building events organised by AFI over the past few years including on NFIS.
While considerable progress has been made on financial inclusion, Hon. Prime Minister, more is needed now and perhaps the next phase is even more crucial as we drive towards policy implementation to enhance sustainable development. Support and commitment from the highest levels of the government and effective cooperation among the ministry and regulatory organisations is critical for successful implementation of the strategy through the following initiatives:
Digital Financial Services (DFS)
Digital financial services (DFS) is a major driver for financial inclusion. It helps achieve responsible scale and to level the playing field for SMEs, women, youth and people living in remote areas. DFS. A recent McKinsey Global Institute report reveals that DFS can increase GDP in developing nations by $3.7 trillion dollars by 2025 with the potential to create 95 million jobs across all sectors.
DFS has played a key role in reducing the cost of remittances. Mobile-money based cross border remittances is fast growing as an alternative way of international money transfer with the service available in 53 countries across the world. It is 50% cheaper than traditional channels such as banks and money transfer operators.
DFS has also brought about efficiencies in G2P (government to people payments) and has led to increased efficiency in most organizations as transactions including utility bill payment and tax payment can now be done in the comfort of our homes or offices, and in an efficient manner using mobile technology.
SME and MSME access to finance
Besides households, MSMEs is another target group to be financially included. As you all know, MSMEs provide many economic and social benefits as well as play an important role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SMEs account approximately 99% of all firms, about 70% of employments on average, and are major contributors to GDP between 50% and 60% on average (OECD 2016b).
From financial inclusion perspective, it entails providing access to formal financial services to those lacking them, and perfecting the system for those who are already part of the formal financial circuit. According to the study by SME Finance Forum, MSME financial gap in developing countries is estimated to be at $5.2 trillion (58.56%), of which $331,006 million (7.59%) from the Sub-Saharan Africa.
Noting to this, AFI and the African Development Bank (AfDB) have signed an agreement that aims to promote collaboration of financial inclusion in Africa in January 2017. At working group level, Swaziland contributed to the Policy Catalogue on Agricultural Finance Intervention in Africa: A Case Study of Ghana, Swaziland and Tanzania, as part of SMEFWG knowledge product.
Further to this, we can see the current SME financing landscape has been progressing beyond the normal conventional financing, of which see various forms of financing have been introduced to fill the financing gap, from the normal banking products to hybrid (debt and equity based) financing to digital and online platform-based financing.
Women’s financial inclusion
The Global Findex indicates that the gap on access to financial services between men and women is at an average of 9% at the global level. 58% of the 2 billion unbanked globally are women, making up about 1.2 billion women in total. This is also true in the case of Swaziland where only 61% of the women were formally financially included compared to 69% for men.
We should strive to close this gap as we enhance access to financial services. Again, studies also suggest that increasing access for women would see more GDP growth. The Denarau Action Plan, adopted at the Global Policy Forum in Fiji last year, aims to halve this gender gap by 2021. Since its adoption, AFI member Maya Commitments to women’s financial inclusion increased from 3 to 27 in the space of a year. As an AFI member, no doubt, Swaziland will live up to AFI’s global efforts for members to reduce the gender gap.
Protecting customers and ensuring they are treated fairly by financial institutions is the essence of market conduct policy. Indeed, market conduct regulation aims to prevent (and manage where prevention fails) the dangers that arise from a financial institution conducting its business in ways that are unfair to customers or undermines the integrity of financial markets and confidence in the financial system.
Effective market conduct requires customers who are empowered to hold financial institutions to account. In addition to reforming the legal framework for regulating financial institutions, the approach to improving market conduct will also aim at improving customer recourse mechanisms in the financial services sector. In addition to improved recourse mechanisms, improved market conduct requires financial customers who are informed and appropriately educated about financial services and products. This requires effective financial education initiatives to build customer capability.
AFI member institutions realise the importance of consumer protection with 47 members having commitments related to consumer protection under the Maya Declaration. It is heartening to note that Swaziland has two out of seven Maya Commitment targets related to consumer protection and financial literacy.
Allow me to conclude by stating that financial inclusion is an issue of prevalence both among developing and developed countries. To use our own example, when AFI was created, financial inclusion was a relatively neglected topic in the global agenda. Today, as financial inclusion has entered the mainstream debate and gained prominence (e.g. in the G20 initiatives), there is far greater acceptance, ambition and interest regarding these issues.
Financial inclusion is one of the key enablers of many of the Sustainable Development Goals related to education, health and other basic public needs as highlighted in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development adopted by the United Nations in 2015.
Again, I congratulate the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Swaziland on the launch of National Financial Inclusion Strategy and thank you for welcoming me to the beautiful country. Going forward, I assure you of AFI’s support as you continue to implement the strategy.