World Leaders, Financial Experts Highlight Microfinance Successes in Africa, Emphasize U.N. Roadmap to Bring Financial Access to World's Poor

As part of the UN General Assembly's High-level Meeting on Africa's Development Needs, world leaders and financial experts, including HRH Princess Máxima of the Netherlands, HE Mr. Bert Koenders, Minister of Development Cooperation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Dr. James Mwangi, Managing Director and CEO, Equity Bank (Kenya) and Mr. David Morrison, Executive Director, United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) gathered today to highlight innovative solutions and best practices to bring inclusive financial services to the poorest populations in Africa and around the globe.

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Access to financial services provides a safety net to families, communities and countries so they can better cope during challenging times

New York, NY (PRWEB) September 22, 2008

As part of the UN General Assembly's High-level Meeting on Africa's Development Needs, world leaders and financial experts, including HRH Princess Máxima of the Netherlands, HE Mr. Bert Koenders, Minister of Development Cooperation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Dr. James Mwangi, Managing Director and CEO, Equity Bank (Kenya) and Mr. David Morrison, Executive Director, United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) gathered today to highlight innovative solutions and best practices to bring inclusive financial services to the poorest populations in Africa and around the globe.

Nearly 300 million Africans live in extreme poverty. A mere four percent of those living in sub-Saharan Africa have access to bank accounts. Only one percent of Africans has a loan or credit facility with a formal financing institution. Gaining access to a diverse range of financial products and services--savings accounts, basic insurance products and loans--can provide individuals with the tools needed to generate income, build capital and invest in their future.

"Access to financial services provides a safety net to families, communities and countries so they can better cope during challenging times," said Mwangi, who is also a member of the UN Advisors Group on Inclusive Financial Sectors (UNAG). "These financial services support innovations in agricultural production, food security and small-scale farming and should be considered as an important long-term remedy to affect conditions like those that led to the current food crisis."

The event was co-hosted by UNCDF, UNAG and the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations.

"The solutions discussed today are powerful examples of the importance of the public and private sector working together to open financial systems to those who were previously denied access," said HRH Princess Máxima, a UNAG member and Chairperson of the Advisor's Working Group on Advocacy. "There is tremendous demand worldwide for financial services among the poor and I am hopeful that by showcasing successes--like these in Africa--we will encourage the elevation of inclusive finance as a global development priority and an important tool for poverty alleviation."

HRH Princess Máxima and Dr. Mwangi are two of 25 Advisors who make up the UNAG, a group tasked by the United Nations with identifying key issues that limit access to financial services for the world's poor and developing practical strategies to remove barriers to access. The group includes leading experts on microfinance from Governments, central banks, regulatory agencies, microfinance institutions, the private sector, civil society, development agencies, donors and academia. [Editor's Note: A full list of the Advisors is available at http://www.unadvisorsgroup.org.

"Increasing access to financial services is an essential part of global efforts to reduce poverty, empower women and promote human development," said Kemal Derviş, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme. "This is especially important as we step up efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, and the UN Advisors Group on Inclusive Financial Sectors has been instrumental in bringing attention to this issue and in keeping us going in the right direction."

The UNAG's recommendations, which target Governments, regulators, the private sector and development partners, underscore a clear message: cross-sector coordination is essential to creating successful inclusive financial systems and extending access to the largest number. They also note:

  •     Governments should promote access for all citizens to a broad range of financial products and services, embrace new technologies and delivery channels, create helpful policy environments, reject interest rate ceilings that limit credit expansion, and promote consumer protection, transparent prices, financial education and an open, competitive market.
  •     Regulators should establish conditions that allow a diverse range of institutions to provide financial services, enable appropriate supervision for financial services providers and their supporting industries, and mitigate risk and balance concerns of safety without limiting access.
  •     Development partners should build human and institutional capacity to meet funding needs, support the range of financial institutions that are apart from inclusive financial sectors, and monitor the financial and social performance of development-partner investment portfolios.
  •     The private sector plays an important role in expanding access and should realize the market opportunities, engage at the executive level, and forge partnerships with both the financial sector and businesses that support the financial services industry.

Diana Taylor, UNAG member and managing director, Wolfensohn & Co, added "Now more than ever it is important that the UNAG recommendations be acted upon. The constraints that have kept those living in poverty from getting access to life-changing financial services must be removed so that those at all levels of the global economy have the tools they need to live healthy, productive lives."

The full text of the UNAG key messages as well as additional resources and information on the UNAG and microfinance are available at http://www.unadvisorsgroup.org.

About the UN Advisors Group
The UN Advisors Group on Inclusive Financial Sectors was established in 2006 and consists of 25 individuals representing Governments, central banks, regulatory agencies, microfinance institutions and other financial services providers, private sector financial institutions, civil society, development agencies and donors, and academia from all over the world. Its main role is to advise the United Nations system and member states on global issues relating to inclusive finance.

The objective of the Advisors Group is to increase sustainable access of poor and low-income households and micro and small entrepreneurs to a broad range of financial products and services through the development of inclusive financial sectors around the world.

The Advisors Group worked with Governments, regulatory and supervisory bodies, central banks, academia and the private sector to identify and define the key issues constraining access to financial services and advised the United Nations on strategies and concrete steps that can be taken to remove these constraints. The full text of the UNAG key messages as well as additional resources and information on the UNAG and microfinance are available at http://www.unadvisorsgroup.org.

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