The 5th Annual General Meeting (AGM)
Wednesday, 9 September 2020
Opening Remarks by AFI Board of Directors, Deputy Governor Gamal Negm, Central Bank of Egypt
Dear colleagues on the AFI Board of Directors;
Your Excellencies Governors and Heads of Institutions; Chair and Members of AFI’s Board Committees; Distinguished Members; AFI Executive Director and Management Unit;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
On behalf of the Board of Directors, I welcome you all to the 5th Annual General Meeting of the Alliance of Financial Inclusion. I really appreciate your finding time to participate in this important meeting despite the current challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic that has ravaged the world. This is the first time AFI is conducting the AGM virtually in view of the ongoing restrictions and distancing requirements which made it not possible to hold a physical AGM. In ordinary circumstances, the AFI network was to convene this week at the Dead Sea in Jordan under the hosting of the Central Bank of Jordan. I am grateful to my colleagues on the Board for their foresight and wisdom to resolve to hold this year’s AGM virtually despite having to postpone the Global Policy Forum to 2021. My gratitude to Governor Ziad Fariz and the team at the Central Bank of Jordan for the early work they had undertaken for the 2020 AGM and GPF and for graciously offering to host the 2021 GPF. We look forward to the opportunity to convene in Jordan next year, conditions permitting.
Honorable members, the AGM is a highly significant gathering of the AFI network. It provides an important opportunity for the Membership Council to discuss and decide on strategic matters that would affect the direction of the network. This is especially important during crisis times such as we face today. I have no doubt that we are all currently preoccupied to ensure our economies recover from the economic downturn and to protect the gains we have made in financial inclusion. The Board is confident that the AFI network in solidarity, and through continuous peer learning and experience sharing, can put in place the right policy and regulatory solutions to help strengthen our economies and emerge stronger from this crisis.
Honorable members, I trust you have had the opportunity go through AFI’s Annual Report and the audited financial report that summarizes our achievements in year 2019 as a network. Dr. Hannig will also elaborate on these shortly. I, however, would like to acknowledge the significant progress made by the network since we met at the last GPF in Kigali, Rwanda. Allow me to commend the Board of Directors, Board Committees and the Management Unit for working tirelessly to achieve commendable results for all planned initiatives in this critical first year while maintaining a high level of member satisfaction during a period of dynamic growth. In this year more so, the Board has been impressed with the continued level of excellence and quality demonstrated through AFI’s work through the past challenging months.
As you read our Annual Report, you would observe that AFI took strategic steps to meet the network’s aspiration as a technical content leader during 2019 while continuing to respond to members’ in-country policy implementation needs. This included the elevation of high-impact policy lessons and evidence by AFI’s Working Groups to provide policy and regulatory guidance. AFI also enriched its collaborative approach by expanding the discourse on converging financial inclusion challenges through global dialogues between developing and developed economies. The practical solutions that emerged from these global dialogues added to AFI’s knowledge base to address converging challenges in financial inclusion, including: financial and regulatory technologies; emerging risks in digital financial services ecosystems; consumer protection and market conduct; and balancing triple objectives of financial integrity, financial stability and financial inclusion.
In 2019, AFI had under the Board’s leadership, commenced the execution of the Phase III strategy to position AFI as a global policy leadership alliance. Key objectives of the Phase III strategy include the issuance of policy and regulatory guidance for members’ voluntary adoption and intensifying in-country policy implementation support to members in response to members’ demand. Despite the COVID-19 global pandemic, the AFI Management Unit was able to adapt AFI’s delivery modality to the virtual platform and therefore ensured that the key deliverables were on track. I wish to commend the Management Unit for demonstrating resilience and ability to adapt. While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented impact on the operating environment of AFI, it has also brought about strategic opportunities that can enhance: i) the implementation of the Phase III strategy; ii) members’ resilience to emergencies, and iii) AFI’s sustainability.
I have no doubt that 2019 has been a difficult year for all of us due to the pandemic which scattered our plans and threatened to undo the gains we have made on financial inclusion. However, the Board wishes to commend all members for the swift re-action and measures taken to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. We need to leverage the lessons learned to contain the impact and move forward. The pandemic again reminded us of the importance of AFI’s peer sharing model which allowed us to exchange policy lessons through the AFI Policy Profiles which have now become a global reference. I again commend the AFI Management Unit for swiftly facilitating this work and for launching the COVID-19 Response Project. I assure you that the Board stands ready to facilitate this sharing as we need each other more than ever before.
In 2020, we see a growing need for good measures to ensure medium to long term sustainability of the Network. We also recognize the challenges of resources to cover our subscriptions, but we need to be more innovative. How best can we achieve this? I don’t have all the answers, but this calls for concerted effort. But at the core of this effort is to preserve the DNA of AFI which is founded on mutual respect and bottom-up approach that advance member’s needs and priorities. This proven peer learning model require our continued support to strengthen its capacity to bring services closer to members.
The Board supports the strategic outlook and opportunities, and these will be presented in more detail to the membership by AFI Executive Director, Dr. Alfred Hannig in the next session.
Accountability and process assurance is going to be key for AFI’s success and these calls for focus on institutional objectives that support members’ financial inclusion policymaking and implementation initiatives. It is expected that the Board Committee will continue to diligently lead this process. I therefore wish to commend the Chairs and members of the Global Standards and Policy Committee and the Gender Inclusive Finance Committee for the oversight provided for AFI to achieve its goals and also ensuring the policy frameworks being developed are inclusive. The importance of equal participation of women and youth in national economies is key to global development. I am glad that in line with the Denarau Action Plan to enhance gender diversity, AFI, will at this AGM take further measures to ensure women are adequately represented on AFI’s Board of Directors. I similarly, commend the Chairs and members of Audit and Budget and Finance Committees for providing assurance of our administrative processes as this renders credibility to AFI as a global organization.
As you are aware, this AGM marks the end of the term for the current Committees of the AFI Board and in accordance with the Articles of Association, members who have served the maximum term limit will therefore rotate out of the Committee. I wish to take this opportunity to thank all our Committee members for their dedication and the guidance they have provided in supporting the oversight role of the Board. We look forward to working closely with the Committee members who will be submitted for the Membership Council’s ratification for the new term.
On behalf of the Board, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the AFI Management Unit led by Dr. Alfred Hannig and the Executive Team, for their commitment in supporting the strategic objectives of the AFI Network and for their dedication and passion in delivering such outstanding results in the midst of challenging times. I encourage you to remain focused and maintain the same resilience as we continue to make substantial progress in our financial inclusion journey. Please be assured of the support of the Board and the network as we continue to work together to safeguard the gains of financial inclusion and the progress that we have made. I look forward to our fruitful deliberations.
With this, I hereby officially open the 2020 Annual General Meeting of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion.
Please accept my apologies, as I have been called at short notice to attend a ministerial meeting and am therefore unable to participate in the remainder of the AGM. I now hand over the chairing of the AGM to my colleague, Deputy Governor Dr. Norbert TOE of Banque Centrale Des États De L'afrique De L'ouest (BCEAO) who will preside over the AGM proceedings.