2019-04-18
Photo: Governor Fazle Kabir of Bangladesh Bank delivers his opening remarks at the 11th G-24/AFI Policymakers' Roundtable on Financial Inclusion

11th Annual G-24/AFI Policymakers' Roundtable on Financial Inclusion
Spring Meetings
Wednesday, 10 April 2019
IMF Headquarters, Washington D.C.

Opening Remarks from Governor Fazle Kabir, Bangladesh Bank & Chairman of the AFI Board of Directors


Fellow Governors,

Director of the G-24 Secretariat, Marilou Uy,

AFI Executive Director Alfred Hannig,

Chair of the AFI Gender & Women’s Financial Inclusion Committee Dr. Tukiya Kankasa-Mabula,

Representatives from multilateral organizations,

Partners,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Evening!

It is my honor to speak in the opening session of the 11th Annual G-24/AFI Policymakers’ Roundtable at the IMF and World Bank Spring Meetings as the Chair of the Board of Alliance for Financial Inclusion.

We stand at an imperative junction in financial inclusion. Across the developing world, we have observed noteworthy progress towards financial inclusion, with the Global Findex database collected by the World Bank Group detailing that the number of unbanked adults globally reduced from 49.40% in 2011 to 31.50% of global adult population in 2017.

This is a very momentous achievement. Much of this progress has been driven by smart policies and regulations, and the technological innovation which they have enabled.

  • Since 2011, more than 50 countries in AFI have set quantified financial inclusion goals and targets under the framework of the Maya Declaration;
  • Since 2012, more than 40 countries have formulated and published national financial inclusion strategies, which provide essential organizing frameworks for the implementation of these financial inclusion goals and targets;
  • More than 400 policy changes to support financial inclusion goals have been implemented, ranging from regulations to support the development of mobile money and consumer protection policies, to the more recent innovations such as regulatory sandboxes to support FinTech development; 

There is sufficient ground to be optimistic while we have to ensure that financial inclusion drive has to be sustainable and impactful so that no-one is left behind. This implies to reach inclusion to rural areas as well as urban, leverage the account access with the effective usage through a range of value-added products, and design the framework for protecting consumers of financial services.

In many countries, delivering sustainable financial inclusion also means paying close attention to gender considerations. Financial inclusion is a vital enabler of women’s socio-economic empowerment and of gender equality. Evidence suggests that when a woman has her own bank account, as opposed to relying on male family members, her status in the family and community and participation in decision-making is enhanced.

Mobile based financial services provides a great opportunity for millions of financially excluded women to finally have some control over finances. It is not the case only for women in my country Bangladesh but also a common phenomenon around the globe. When we look at Kenya or Tanzania or Indonesia, we observe that similar transformation is taking place. Fintech has become the driving force of financial inclusion worldwide. And, women could be the front runner of the race.

Yet, in most countries of the world, we are faced with a persistent gender gap in financial inclusion, which stands at 9 per cent globally. Women are being included in the formal financial system, but only at the same rate as men, leaving a gender gap of the same magnitude.

Within the AFI network we saw a great leap forward being made with the adoption of the Denarau Action Plan in 2016 which commits the membership to follow a 10-point action plan with the agreed target of halving the gender gap in each of their countries by 2021.

The Board of AFI has established a high-level committee on Gender and Women’s Financial Inclusion in the same year, to oversee progress towards implementing the Denarau Action Plan. I thank Dr. Tukiya Kankasa-Mabula, Deputy Governor of the Bank of Zambia for her leadership as Chair of the AFI Gender and Women’s Financial Inclusion Committee, and for the regular reports the Committee has been pursuing to the Board. We all eagerly await Dr. Kankasa-Mabula’s presentation later this evening.

Technology offers opportunities to contribute towards addressing the challenges of including women within the formal financial system. Digital financial services, successfully implemented, can lead women to greater convenience and security.

Yet it is also clear that we cannot rely solely on technology to solve this challenge. Structural barriers such as parallel gender gaps in mobile phone ownership, digital literacy and mobile money agent networks, can restrict the degree to which women in developing countries can take advantage of such innovations.

At the Global Policy Forum in Sochi last September, AFI members have adopted the Sochi Accord on FinTech for Financial Inclusion. One of the requirements in the Accord is to:

“Use FinTech solutions to break gender specific barriers to financial inclusion and reduce the gender gap”.

This evening’s discussion presents an excellent opportunity to move forward on this commitment, to identify the synergies between the Sochi Accord and the Denarau Action Plan, and to take the first steps towards developing a framework for Technology & Women’s Financial Inclusion which AFI members may draw on as they implement policy changes to advance financial inclusion and close gender gaps in their own jurisdictions.

I am looking forward to the expert presentations and country sharing we have ahead of us, and I wish all of us fruitful discussions here this evening.

With these few words may I declare the 11th Annual G-24/AFI Policymakers’ Roundtable at the IMF and World Bank Spring Meetings open.

Thank you all.

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