National Strategies to Fulfill the Global Commitment: Financial Inclusion
Sound financial inclusion policy and effective policy implementation require top-level global commitment and national-level initiatives and ownership.
The G20 has promoted financial inclusion at the highest political level. In addition to including in the Leaders’ Statement their strong commitment to financial inclusion and recognizing the benefits of universal access to financial services, the G20 developed the Principles for Innovative Financial Inclusion (G20 Principles) and the Leaders endorsed the Financial Inclusion Action Plan — a set of six concrete and pragmatic action areas to advance financial inclusion — in 2010. They also launched the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI) as a platform for countries and relevant stakeholders to carry forward work on financial inclusion, including implementation of the Plan.
While G20 efforts provide a global framework to achieve greater financial inclusion that is essential to economic development and inclusive growth, national leadership is critical to translate global aspirations into concrete targets and action plans. As such, in 2012, G20 Leaders and Finance Ministers welcomed the birth of the Maya Declaration, the first global and measurable set of commitments to financial inclusion by governments.
The Maya Declaration: National Commitments to Global Standards
The Maya Declaration, created by the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) Network and launched at AFI’s Global Policy Forum in Mexico in 2011, has become the global standard of national financial inclusion commitments. The Maya Declaration supports the G20 Principles and outlines four broad policy areas for countries to develop targets, commitments, and national strategies. Countries refer to their commitments to the Maya Declaration when developing national strategies.
Countries see national strategies as essential frameworks to achieve their commitments to the Maya Declaration. National strategies also help galvanize stakeholders under a common vision, achieve effective national coordination, and foster public-private partnerships.
In other words, there’s a clear connection between the G20 Principles, the Maya Declaration and national strategies. While the G20 Principles set out guidance, the Maya Declaration enables countries to make concrete commitments, and national strategies detail each country’s concrete goals and action plans.
As a network of 120 central banks, government ministries and other financial policymaking institutions from close to 100 emerging and developing countries, in 2011, the G20 selected the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) as an Implementing Partner to support national financial inclusion strategies. In doing so, AFI noticed an increasing number of countries formulating national strategies due to the following reasons:
• The growing recognition among global economic and financial leaders as a new strategy to promote financial stability and help with employment and economic growth.
• The increasing importance at the highest national political levels, leading to a need for greater coordination, transparency and accountability.
• The complex nature of the policy, which requires a holistic eco-system to be aligned under a vision and practical framework.
• The important role that technology and innovation play, resulting in a need to examine future trends at the national level.
• Peer pressure driving the demand for national strategies, particularly as the increased availability of data has allowed for countries to benchmark against each other.
As a response to the increasing demand from AFI network members and designated by the G20 Leaders as an Implementing Partner for the Financial Inclusion Peer Learning Program, AFI created a working group in October 2012 to help countries develop and implement national strategies. Today, 39 financial institutions from 32 countries are part of this Group. AFI also provides support to countries through grants. These grants enable countries to conduct study trips and exchange programs to create comprehensive and practical national strategies.
Lessons Learned and Moving Forward
To have a successful national financial inclusion strategy, the highest level of political commitment is a must. When developing the national strategy, consultation with key stakeholders, including the private sector, to develop clear vision, goals, and targets is essential to the plan’s success. Sound data also helps the quality of strategy formulation and implementation. If possible, setting up a right national coordinating structure can help achieve the goals. Lastly, national strategies need to reflect the principle of “proportionality” in applying global standards set by the International Standard Setting Bodies (SSBs) in order to innovate and reach the unbanked population.
As many countries are now moving into the strategy implementation phase, the global community will all watch closely to see what impact such national strategies are making on the ground. In the meantime, more countries will develop their own strategies to bring the unbanked into the financial system.