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> Posted by Center Staff

PCMA CEO Abeer Odeh and PMA Governor Jihad Al Wazir

Last week Palestinian government officials announced plans to create a national financial inclusion strategy, an initiative that would put it on a short list of two countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region that have nationwide, government-led inclusion plans (Morocco being the other).

The Palestine Monetary Authority (PMA) and the Palestine Capital Markets Authority (PCMA), the country’s central bank and a national regulating body will co-lead the project along with support from the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) and other public and private groups.

The policies and guidelines of the strategy will aim to facilitate greater access, improve awareness and financial education, and reinforce client protection. An area inviting particular attention is access to credit, which is low for both individuals and SMSEs. The strategy will build on inclusion principles endorsed by the G20, World Bank, AFI, and the OECD Principles on National Strategy for Financial Education.

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> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Assistant, CFI

A few weeks ago Tanzania launched a National Financial Inclusion Framework, which includes the ambitious goal of expanding access to more than half the country’s population by 2016. As of 2012, 17 percent of Tanzanians had access to formal financial services accounts, compared to an average of 24 percent for all of Sub-Saharan Africa.

H.M. Queen Máxima of the Netherlands in her role as UN Special Advocate on Inclusive Finance for Development joined the framework’s launch event, and emphasized how the effort builds on the country’s recent national commitments. At the G20 Leaders Summit in 2012, Tanzania was one of 17 countries that pledged to create a national financial inclusion strategy. It was also one of the first countries to make a Maya Declaration commitment.

Despite disappointing account ownership figures, the country has achieved progress in other areas. Between September 2012 and 2013, access to mobile money services increased from 63 to 90 percent nationally, with nearly 43 percent of the population actively using a mobile money service.

The national framework, alongside the goal of 50 percent account ownership by 2016, aims to achieve 50 percent regular usage, 25 percent of adults with at least two weeks’ worth of income in formal savings accounts, and 25 percent of adults with electronic personal financial records.

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> Posted by Sonja E. Kelly, Fellow, CFI

I was thrilled when I opened the paper this week to the news of Michelle Bachelet’s victory in Chile. The first female president in Chile, first elected in 2006, is back in office after a one-term break. I have long admired her advocacy for those living in poverty, her tenacity, and her activism. However, her victory also means a question of what will happen to the admirable financial inclusion initiatives begun by the Piñera administration.

In many of my conversations with government employees in Chile in the past year I have heard some caveat to the effect of, “I’m not sure what we’ll be able to do in the coming months given the upcoming election.” Initiatives like electronic government-to-person (G2P) payments, for example, were pushed forward by people connected with the Piñera government, and if the new administration does not prioritize such initiatives, financial inclusion may receive less policy attention.

This highlights a larger issue of who “owns” government-initiated financial inclusion efforts. The answer matters because the leadership structure of government-led initiatives determines longevity. If financial inclusion policy is spearheaded by the Central Bank, and the Central Bank ministry is largely independent, financial inclusion initiatives are unlikely to change course with an administration change. If it is a Ministry of Finance-led push, however, financial inclusion may indeed be an administration-specific initiative.

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> Posted by Caitlin Sanford, Lanna Lome-Ieremia, and Sameer Chand, Bankable Frontier Associates, Central Bank of Samoa, and Reserve Bank of Fiji

Another version of this post is published on the Alliance for Financial Inclusion website.

Sigatoka Market, Sigatoka, Fiji

Until now there have been few sources of publicly available data about financial access and usage in the Pacific Islands. Although individual central banks are measuring and tracking progress towards financial inclusion, the small island countries in the Pacific region have often been left out of international financial inclusion datasets, such as the Global FindexThe IMF Financial Access Survey captures some key financial inclusion indicators but this does not include all the countries from the Pacific.

The Pacific Islands Working Group on financial inclusion (PIWG) of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion came together this year to define and collect financial inclusion data specifically tailored to the region. Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu participated in this data project. While the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) and the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI) have elaborated key sets of financial inclusion indicators to be used for global comparison, in some instances, individual countries such as Mexico, Brazil, Tanzania, and others have crafted broader sets of country-level indicators. This is the first time a broader set of common indicators have been developed at a regional level.

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> Posted by Center Staff

This week the global financial inclusion community saw a mini-milestone: with the newly signed-on Nepal, 40 countries have committed to the Maya Declaration. The Maya Declaration is a global and measurable set of commitments by developing and emerging country governments to greater financial inclusion.

When a country commits to the Maya Declaration, they make measurable commitments in four financial inclusion areas: create an enabling environment to harness new technology that increases access and lowers costs of financial services; implement a proportional framework that advances synergies in financial inclusion, integrity, and stability; integrate consumer protection and empowerment as a key pillar of financial inclusion; utilize data for informed policymaking and tracking results.

Nepal announced its Maya Declaration commitment on Tuesday. In the commitment, Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) vowed to increase the country’s financial literacy through the development of a national-level Financial Literacy Strategy by mid-2014. The bank also committed to conducting a financial literacy program for students, “NRB with Students,” and widely disseminating financial literacy materials to promote public awareness. To strengthen the country’s mobile money services, the commitment includes provisions to improve the quality of existing mobile money services and to introduce new services before the end of 2014. Also before the end of 2014, Nepal’s commitment outlines that NRB will direct a national-level survey on rural credit and create a Financial Sector Development Strategy. Other recent country commitments came from Belarus this past May and El Salvador this past March.

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> Posted by Alice Allan, Head of Advocacy, CARE International UK

The Financial Inclusion 2020 campaign at the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion is building a movement toward full financial inclusion by 2020. Accordingly, this blog series will spotlight financial inclusion efforts around the globe, share insights coming out of the creation of a roadmap to full financial inclusion, and highlight findings from research on the “invisible market.”

Today marks the start of an important meeting in Monrovia, Liberia, where the UN High Level Panel will look at what might replace the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they expire in 2015. With a focus on economic transformation, the panel hopes that any future framework to reduce poverty includes increasing “jobs and growth,” and “tackling inequality.”

Those of us focused on financial inclusion believe increased access to finance can help achieve these admirable aims. But would the UN High Level Panel agree?

Last week the Banking on Change partnership between Barclays, CARE International, and Plan UK produced Banking on Change: Breaking the Barriers to Financial Inclusion, a report which, amongst other things, makes the case compellingly enough that we believe the UN High Level Panel should take note.

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> Posted by Susy Cheston, Senior Advisor, CFI

The Financial Inclusion 2020 campaign at the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion is building a movement toward full financial inclusion by 2020. Accordingly, this blog series will spotlight financial inclusion efforts around the globe, share insights coming out of the creation of a roadmap to full financial inclusion, and highlight findings from research on the “invisible market.”  

The Financial Inclusion 2020 campaign begins with an audacious premise: that it is possible, if all the stars align, to achieve full financial inclusion for all with quality financial services by the year 2020. Yes, that would take quite a few stars to line up perfectly, but here are my top seven reasons for optimism as we work to advance inclusion.

1. There are more mobile phones than toothbrushes in the world today.

Bad news for dental health, but good news for billions of previously excluded clients who have access to a device that can include them in financial services if the mobile money folks play their cards right. With mobile subscriptions exceeding 86 percent of the global population, there is great promise if providers can figure out the business models.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog, except where otherwise noted, are those of the authors and guest bloggers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Financial Inclusion or its affiliates.
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