Remarks by Judith Karl, UNCDF Executive secretary, at the Global Learning and Sharing Forum of Making Access Possible

  • June 26, 2018

  • New York, United States

MAP stands out as one of UNCDF’s strategic initiatives that has provided countries with a nationally representative survey of how people access and use financial services.

Judith Karl
Executive Secretary, UNCDF

Good morning ladies and gentleman. It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to New York. This learning and sharing event comes at an opportune moment when we are starting to see the potential of financial inclusion in helping to achieve the SDGs.

The most recent global Findex report finds that progress on financial has been driven by digital payments, government policies, and a new generation of financial services accessed through mobile phones and the internet. The power of financial technology to expand access to and use of accounts is demonstrated most persuasively in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 21 percent of adults now have a mobile money account—nearly twice the share in 2014 and easily the highest of any region in the world.

Within this context, it is important for financial inclusion policies and strategies to leverage data so that strategies are targeted and their implementation monitored

UNCDF supports both our host country government and private sector partners by ‘data driven’ approaches to policy and to illuminate market opportunities. We have been using a range of diagnostic tools and data sources, based on the issues and challenges to be addressed. These include both national level surveys as well as diagnostics focused on specific issues, for example payments, digital financial services, youth or women’s economic empowerment.

In that context, MAP stands out as one of UNCDF’s strategic initiatives that has provided countries with a nationally representative survey of how people access and use financial services. MAP has in that process un-veiled a wealth of information on people’s financial lives, on the use of both formal and informal services, for what purposes and with what limitations and constraints. Importantly, the MAP program has also helped governments set up national stakeholder platforms and develop financial inclusion roadmaps that build on the findings and insights of those surveys.

For any financial inclusion strategy or product to work, it needs to understand who the client is and solve a real problem they face. Let me draw on one example of a MAP finding that adds essential granularity to our understanding of what works: In Nepal, – loans are generally taken by farmers for consumption and social purposes rather than productive purposes – and key among the ‘social purposes’ in question are weddings. While this might seem an irrational use of credit by farmers, the generous hosting of fellow community members at a wedding is an investment in social capital that is likely to pay off in subsequent times of need. This type of findings that gives a deeper understanding of clients’ needs and behavior can in turn help shape conducive policy and enabling environments as well as product innovations that best fulfill clients’ needs.

Working with stakeholders like yourselves are critical in ensuring that we focus our work at country level linked to both the lives of people and the national objectives of our Government partners. Through this, MAP has been able to set up pilot initiatives, reveal opportunities to investors and keep the focus ensuring that the national objectives of financial inclusion can be met by multiple stakeholders. The coordinated and collaborative effort on a national platform serves to anchor the MAP approach in-country, building technical capacity and increasing the likelihood that the innovations identified can be taken to scale and will continue delivering benefits into the future, even as market conditions and consumer needs evolve.

Helping developing country governments to spearhead and achieve real change in the marketplace requires hard work, using processes and systems that make it possible to harness the collective experience and knowledge of many local stakeholders, such as development partners and private-sector players.

South-South exchange and peer learning like this enable us to have a conversation around initiatives and approaches that our working within our particular circumstance and in ensuring that our work remains relevant and focused.

I look forward to the engagements from the next 2-days with you, giving us feedback on how we can make MAP better, working with you.