The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has the lowest level of financial inclusion worldwide. On average, only 14% of adults have a bank account. Unemployment, particularly among the youth, remains a core challenge with an unemployment rate of 28.2% according to the International Labour Organisation.
Policy-makers in the Arab World have realized inclusive and stable financial sectors as a key component to boost sustainable and inclusive growth. To improve people’s financial and occupational perspectives, more and more countries set up financial inclusion strategies, promoting technological innovation, non-bank financial services, and customer empowerment.
On a regional level, the GIZ MFMR programme promotes cross-border dialogue, knowledge exchange and access to sector specific data and information.
To keep up the regional momentum in policy making for more financial inclusion in the Arab countries, the programme together with the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF) and other partners such as the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) supports the development of capacities of partner governments.
The programme furthermore supports the Microfinance Network of Arab Countries, Sanabel, through organisational and strategic advice. A new business strategy as well as strengthened internal structures, governance, and HR policies aim at developing Sanabel’s training courses for MFIs.
The programme has hosted two regional high-policy conferences together with the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF) and the Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ). In November 2015, a conference on “Financial Inclusion and Employment in the Arab Region” was held in Jordan. More than 120 international policymakers elaborated on policies to move forward the financial inclusion action plan for the MENA, endorsed by the G7 and Arab member countries in the Deauville Partnership in Berlin in mid-2015.
In November 2016, light was shed on the topic of ‘Advancing Women’s Financial Inclusion in the Arab World’. Under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah, high-level policy actions were announced to enhance women’s participation in the Financial sector. Madame Graça Machel, Founder of New Faces New Voices and of the Graça Machel Trust Fund, commenced the event and called for transformative changes on all levels of the economy to make financial sectors in the region more inclusive for women and women-led businesses.
The AMF, the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) and the GIZ MFMR programme joined forces to broaden and deepen regional and global knowledge exchange. They announced the launch of a financial inclusion initiative for the Arab Region on the occasion of the regional financial inclusion day on April 27, 2017 in order to sustain peer learning in the Arab World and strengthen advocacy on the global level.
In order to promote and harmonize the collection of data for financial inclusion policy making across the Arab countries, the AMF with the support of the programme has adopted a basic set of indicators, the total financial inclusion index, and a demand-side survey toolbox.
Sanabel, the regional microfinance network, plays an important role as a support service institution with direct access to MFIs. The Microfinance Network has approved a three years’ strategy, erected a new internal structure and improved its training offer. It was empowered to launch the 2014 and 2015 GIZ Gender Award raising awareness for successful products and services of MFIs in the region that empower women entrepreneurs.
Sanabel, the Microfinance Network of Arab Countries, was established in 2002 and has currently 89 members from 13 Arab countries. Sanabel’s member MFIs serve around a total of more than 2.8 million clients, representing 90% of total outreach in the Arab region.
By providing advocacy for an enabling environment, standardisation, trainings, peer learning and other support services for MFIs in Arab countries, Sanabel facilitates the expansion of the access to financial services for low-income people in Arab countries.
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The Arab Monetary Fund (AMF), founded in 1976, aims at strengthened regional payment and settlement systems among its 22 member states. It provides financial assistance and technical assistance to banks and other financial institutions in its member states.
Within its mandate to host the Council of Arab Central Banks and, in particular, the Financial Inclusion Task Force, the AMF is facilitating knowledge and experience exchange between policy decision makers and financial regulators. It undertakes capacity building for its members together with the GIZ programme.
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