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The AFI Denarau Action Plan revisited: 3 quick & helpful reflections AFI and UNCDF Working Together

One year ago, Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) members publically committed to close the gender gap in financial inclusion with the adoption of the Denarau Action Plan: the AFI Network Commitment to Gender and Women’s Financial Inclusion. This pledge sets out the intentions of AFI’s 95 member states, including select ASEAN countries, and 114 financial regulatory and policymaking institutions to take concrete steps to promote women’s financial inclusion through the creation of an enabling environment through smart policies and regulation. Specifically, the Denarau Action Plan identifies measures AFI members can take to increase the number of women with access to and usage of quality and affordable financial services globally.

At its heart, the Denarau Action Plan seeks to address the key barriers to women’s financial inclusion that fall within the scope of the control and influence of financial inclusion policymakers in developing and emerging economies. It recognizes that the path towards women’s financial inclusion is not one that can be walked alone, and requires partnerships. Indeed, AFI Members were supported in conceptualizing the Denarau Action Plan through a partnership, to scale-up peer learning on gender and women’s financial inclusion policies, with the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF)’s Shaping Inclusive Finance Transformations (SHIFT) programme.

Twelve months after the Denarau Action Plan was adopted by the AFI Network, its Members currently prepare to meet in Egypt at the AFI annual Global Policy Forum. It is an opportune moment to reflect on the progress since the launch of the Denarau Action Plan.

1. Moving the conversation forward

It is now broadly recognized by financial inclusion policymakers that proactive strategies to consider women’s financial inclusion will better inform and enhance their policy objectives, at the same time as deliver on their respective government’s global commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 5, to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls. The conversation has moved from focusing on the why, to the how; with Member States committing action to ensure achievements.

2. Taking concrete action

The Denarau Action Plan focuses on a number of key strategies for financial inclusion policy makers to accelerate women’s financial inclusion. These include collecting and using sex-disaggregated financial inclusion data, and considering and implementing best practices in integrating policies for women’s financial inclusion and gender considerations within national financial inclusion strategies. In further support of this, both issues are also being concurrently addressed through UNCDF’s SHIFT programme in ASEAN, through working with regulators and policy makers in the ASEAN region in the development and operationalization of National Financial Inclusion Roadmaps, and bi-lateral country support on a needs basis. Guidance and knowledge products on these themes were developed by AFI in collaboration with UNCDF and other partners earlier this year, to support these efforts, including:

These publications build the case on sex disaggregated data usage and gender considerations for national financial inclusion strategies, while sharing examples of best practices that have already been implemented to inspire action and provide insights for others.

3. Setting targets and Going for Goals

One year after member states institutions committed to the Denarau Action Plan, progress has been made but the journey continues. Monitoring progress requires targets and goals, and the Denarau Action Plan encourages AFI Members to set specific financial inclusion objectives and targets for women’s financial inclusion, both within the framework of the Maya Declaration, but also within national financial inclusion strategies. Eight gender-focused AFI Maya Declaration commitments were announced at the AFI Global Policy Forum last year, made by: Fiji; Malaysia; Vanuatu; Rwanda; Zambia; Zimbabwe; Jordan; and Egypt. Many more Maya Declaration commitments are expected to be announced during this year’s AFI Global Policy Forum, and in the coming year.

As policy makers and regulators embark on their forthcoming meeting in Egypt, many partners and observers, including UNCDF, are excited to engage and further learn about the progress of member states in meeting the Maya Declaration Commitments, as well as the broader pledges set out in the Denarau Action Plan. This will support understanding of how member states are currently working to positively contribute to women’s financial inclusion. In doing so, it will allow further reflection on the impact of such a momentous commitment by financial inclusion policy makers in advancing women’s financial inclusion globally.

UNCDF’s Shaping Inclusive Finance Transformations (SHIFT) programme is a financial market facilitation, technical assistance and funding facility for the ASEAN region. SHIFT aims to facilitate the transition of the use of financial services by people with low incomes – especially women – from informal mechanisms to formal and higher-value services by catalysing innovative partnerships across financial, policy, data and training markets. UNCDF SHIFT's programme is jointly co-funded by UNCDF and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

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