AFI Executive Director Dr. Alfred Hannig delivers his opening remarks at the 6th ECAPI Experts Group on Financial Inclusion Policy (EGFIP) Meeting on 14 October 2020.

6th ECAPI Experts Group on Financial Inclusion Policy (EGFIP) Meeting
Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Opening Remarks by Dr. Alfred Hannig, Executive Director, AFI

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning, good afternoon,  and welcome to the 6th EGFIP ECAPI forum virtually co-hosted by Central Bank of Armenia (CBA).

Allow me to express my gratitude to Governor Martin Galystyan and Deputy Governor Vakhtang from CBA for their leadership in driving the regional agenda of financial inclusion forward virtually in these challenging times.

Let me start by thanking everyone for their support and your time, regardless of the circumstances around how and where we work, to attend this webinar. The AFI Management Unit recognize and appreciate this effort, as it is evident of a fruitful partnership that is even strengthened at this time amidst the global COVID-19 situation.

It is exciting and pleasing to see over 30 participants across all the seven countries of ECAPI attend this virtual meeting. This participation attest to the relevance of AFI as a member-driven network, committed to active engagements in advancing financial inclusion policy at national and regional levels through knowledge exchange, peer learning and technical interventions that reflects the  depth of unique knowledge and experience of members necessary for the development of regulatory guidance, insights on innovative policy developments and highlighting proven solutions in the field.

As the world grapples with the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, an economic crisis is threatening to reverse many years of gains in economic growth, poverty reduction and financial inclusion. However, despite these challenging times we see opportunity. Unlike the financial crisis of 2007-2008 – where highly leveraged financial institutions deemed ‘too big to fail’ had to be rescued by public interventions, the financial sector of today is far better capitalized and in a much stronger position not only to survive this crisis but also to actively contribute to an inclusive recovery: a bottom up approach that supports individuals and communities, including women, workers in the informal sector, front line health care workers, micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, and vulnerable/fragile populations such as older people, persons with disabilities, and forcibly displaced communities.

Financial inclusion is one of the key solutions available to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 and build recovery and resilience. And, here, I emphasize the great opportunity before us.

In my last address in June 2020, I spoke about the various initiatives AFI has taken to work with members to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, I would like to share some important developments and achievements in this area.

Firstly, I am very pleased to announce that Mastercard Foundation approved AFI’s proposal for supporting its COVID-19 Policy Response. The project will focus on MSME finance, with the objective of alleviating the impact of the crisis on micro, small and medium enterprises, and digital finance, with the objective to fast track the uptake of digital financial services to enable governments to make ‘cash’ transfers safely to those who need them, and to allow continuity of business activity during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) has also approved a project that will support the development and dissemination of five key knowledge products: (1) Study on Closing the Gender Gap through Digital Financial Services During the Crisis and Afterwards; (2) Gender Sensitive Rapid Response Policy Toolkit; (3) Policy guideline on Consumer Protection during a Crisis; (4) The Role of Digital Identity and e-KYC in Crisis Response; and (5) Study on Digital Financial Services & Health Linkages.

We have already conducted the AFI Leaders Virtual Dialogue Series on COVID-19 Responses for the Africa and LAC region. These Virtual Leaders Dialogues have been organized to ensure that both AFI’s immediate response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and our longer-term outlook, benefit from the strategic guidance of Leaders within the network. We will also be organizing one for the EECA region in the coming months.

Finally, last September we also launched the GIF COVID-19 Special Report which highlights key gender-related issues facing society during the COVID-19 pandemic and some of the specific gender-sensitive financial inclusion responses that policymakers can undertake to ensure their mitigation and recovery activities are fully inclusive and work towards the network’s commitments in the Denarau Action Plan.

Esteemed participants,

ECAPI has made tremendous progress and have made important contributions to the network despite of being relatively a young Regional Initiative within AFI (two years). Important knowledge products such as Policy framework on Financial competency matrix for adults was launched earlier this year and the EGFIP is also working on some important deliverables such as framework for e-KYC & e-ID, Interoperable regional payment system and competency matrix for school children.

I am confident that this important work on knowledge products will lead to an enhanced focus to advance implementation on the core financial inclusion objectives of the ECAPI set by the leaders of the member countries and also showcase EECAs leadership in the network on these important and very relevant topics given the current environment we are in.

On 5th October 2020, AFI opened its Europe Representative Office with generous support from our hosts, the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs. The launch of this new office signifies an important milestone in AFI’s collaboration with Luxembourg’s inclusive finance ecosystem and the broader European community.

AFI’s Europe Representative Office (ERO) will help foster deeper ties with partners, standard setting bodies and developed country regulators to support cooperation and exchange with AFI members in Europe and Central Asia. One of the key objectives of the office will be to foster more effective and tailored services to the current and prospective members of AFI in the Europe and Central Asia region, in line with AFI’s regionalization and decentralization strategy. The ERO over all will enhance global dialogue between Europe and AFI members in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Arab Region, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Already, we can point to examples of developed-developing country cooperation which are yielding important knowledge benefits for all participants. This includes:

  • The Memorandum of Understanding with the Bank of Portugal to  advance financial inclusion in Lusophone countries;
  • The developed-developing country workstream on converging policy topics that was launched in Prague in cooperation with the Bank of the Czech Republic;
  • And the growing collaboration with the European Central Bank and other European financial regulatory authorities on cybersecurity.

I am pleased to share that we will bring diverse stakeholders perspectives from developed country partners such as Bundesbank, Ministry of Finance of the Czech Republic and private partners such as Mastercard, Visa and Home Credit to share their perspective on e-KYC & e-ID and Financial education and literacy. I would like to thank this participation from our knowledge partners and private partners who bring a more multi faceted dimension to our dialogue in this Regional Initiative

At last I would like to highlight that as a part of the Phase III strategy, AFI Management Unit is continuing to run its In-Country Implementation (ICI) program that aims to support members within the network to respond to financial inclusion efforts as well as to the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. I would encourage member countries from EECA region to apply for ICI support and discuss more details with the Regional Manager. The ICI program will aim to to deliver tailored solution to your policy priority areas.

Over the course of next two days we will deliberate on various important topics which are even more relevant in the times of the current crisis. As AFI MU we would also very much appreciate your feedback on how we can further tailor our services and  enhance delivery in EECA region through various AFI platforms which is based on a unique peer to peer exchange cooperation model which is country-lead.  On this note, I wish to thank you all once again for your participation and will leave you to take forward your deliberations and wish you a fruitful discussion.

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