The Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ), the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF) and GIZ hosted the high-level regional policy forum held under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah to provide an opportunity to deliberate furth9er policy actions for “Advancing Women’s Financial Inclusion in the Arab World
A growing number of governments in the Arab region are committed to increase people’s access to and usage of better, affordable financial services to promote social wellbeing, to stimulate growth and increase employment. Yet, women in the MENA are half as likely to have a bank account: only 9% of women do compared to 19% of men (World Bank Global Findex). Acknowledging the need to increase women’s financial inclusion and address the significant gender gap in financial inclusion, more than 180 policymakers, regulators and financial sector experts convened at the Dead Sea in Jordan from November 22-23, 2016.
The Governor of the CBJ, the Chairman of the AMF, the regional director of GIZ in North Africa, and Madame Graça Machel, Founder of New Faces New Voices and the Graça Machel Trust Fund, called for far-reaching, transformative changes at all levels to make financial sectors in the region more inclusive for women and women-led businesses. Under the theme “Breaking Barriers, Liberating Potential” more than 30 expert panelists and speakers highlighted the changing global and regional landscape and shared their wisdom on regulatory reforms, cutting-edge pro-financial inclusion technology and infrastructure as well as market-led innovations. Their views energized the policymakers in the audience to engage in stimulating deliberations on a range of important issues related to enhancing women’s participation in finance and the economy at large.
Symbolizing the very positive trends in financial inclusion in the MENA region, the CBJ released its Financial Inclusion Vision for Jordan, highlighting payments, microfinance, SME finance, financial education, and consumer protection as the five key policy areas for expanding the financial access of people and businesses in the Kingdom. The Vision provides much needed high-level direction and a broad framework to continue the on-going process of formulating the 2018-2020 National Financial Inclusion Strategy in a more systematic manner.
It also reaffirms the CBJ’s recent commitment to the national goal of expanding the access to finance from the current level of 24.6% of the adult population to 36.60% by 2020, while reducing the gender gap from 53% to 35%. The Vision shows the key role that progressive leadership can play in a strategy process.
Another highlight of the event was the announcement of the launching of a Financial Inclusion Initiative for the Arab Region by the AMF, the AFI network, and GIZ planned for April 27, 2017. This initiative is expected to rally all countries in the region to reinforce their commitments and to sustain peer learning among the member countries in the region. The partnership of the three flagship organizations behind the initiative will also ensure much needed support for the formulation and implementation of a regional Action Plan for Women Financial Inclusion. This regional commitment will be in line with the Denarau Action Plan, the AFI Network Commitment to Gender and Women’s Financial Inclusion, endorsed by the members of the AFI at its Global Policy Forum in September 2016.
“Many women do not have the lightest form of access to financial services… Since there is a connection between financial inclusion and economic growth what do we forego?! In the Arab region, the gender gap is 10%. The potential to drive economic growth and poverty alleviation is huge. Regulators play a very big role in making this happen.” Dr. Alfred Hannig, Executive Director, AFI Financial regulators and supervisor from the region had an opportunity to participate in a highly-interactive one-day capacity development programme about women and financial inclusion organized in cooperation with AFI. This programme focused on carefully selected core issues in advancing women’s financial inclusion, yet maintaining a strong link with the diverse policy developments and challenges discussed at the conference.
Following global commitments and initiatives, the policy forum in Jordan gave stage for the announcement of regional policy actions to advance women’s participation in the financial sector. Policy-makers, regulators and market players will have to follow up on implementing progressive policies and reforms to overcome the specific barriers women face in their respective countries. Yet, the forum provided a unique platform to reflect on international good practices and starting points to advance women’s financial inclusion.
The conference was supported by the AFI network, CGAP, New Faces New Voices (NFNV), and the European Union. A blog series to appear in early 2017 will highlight specific issues raised and the diverse viewpoints that emerged during the event. The highlights are brought to you by the Arabic Microfinance Gateway and GIZ.
Dr. Nimal A. Fernando, consultant at the Alliance for Financial Inclusion, and Atilla Kaiser-Yuecel, Central Bank advisor at GIZ – Amman, December 14, 2016