By Malado Kaba, Director of the Gender, Women and Civil Society Department at the African Development Bank
Last month, I represented the African Development Bank’s Gender, Women and Civil Society Department at the Alliance for Financial Inclusion’s (AFI) 2023 Global Policy Forum in Manila.
Before travelling to the Forum, I had an iconic moment in sporting history on my mind – the “Thrilla in Manila:” This epic boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1975 was hotly anticipated after the pair’s “Fight of the Century” in 1971.
I had it on my mind because I strongly believe that advancing women’s financial inclusion is our fight of the decade if we are going to achieve the African Development Bank’s High 5 priority to improve the quality of life for people across Africa, and the Sustainable Development Goals by the 2030 deadline.
Unlocking women’s economic power and closing the gender gap will not only help us achieve Sustainable Development Goal 5—which is focused on gender equality—it will also help accelerate progress towards many of the 16 other goals. This includes ending poverty, reducing inequalities, and providing decent work and economic growth. Studies have suggested that when we increase women’s access to credit, our financial systems become more stable due to women taking fewer risks and outperforming men on loan repayment rates.
That is why we can’t work in isolation, and this is why the Bank’s participation in the Forum was so significant. The Alliance for Financial Inclusion is a global policy leadership alliance owned and led by central banks and financial regulatory institutions with the common purpose of advancing financial inclusion around the world. Gathering with this international network of policymakers was an invaluable opportunity to share the Bank’s work on financial inclusion and hear first-hand what others are doing in this space.
It was hugely beneficial to engage with central bank governors and other finance-sector stakeholders across Africa to find solutions to issues facing the millions of ‘unbanked’ women across the continent—from expanding digital financial solutions to improving data collection and analysis.
I was also encouraged to hear from central bank officials about the constructive steps they are taking to be gender-responsive and to advance diversity and inclusion from the very top of their organizations. Several governors mentioned that they are implementing their own financial inclusion strategies and using data to inform decisions about how to address obstacles faced by women-led businesses.
In addition to listening and learning from these leaders about the solutions they are implementing in their countries, I was also delighted to formally launch a new phase of the Bank’s partnership with AFI (https://apo-opa.info/46U1qSH). Through our work together over the next four years, we aim to create a new model for gender-sensitive policy and regulatory reforms, which can be applied by governments across the continent to unlock the power and potential of women entrepreneurs. We believe our work with AFI will also be an impactful contribution for the stability of banking systems.
In doing so, we will closely collaborate with many of the central bank leaders I had the opportunity to meet in Manila. Several of the leaders I met with shared that AFAWA had inspired their financial institutions to double down on their own efforts to close the financing gap for women in their countries. Great ideas transcend borders, and by working together to identify powerful solutions, we can create a ripple effect across the continent.
Our new agreement with AFI acts as a foundation for bolstering these relationships and identifying new ways of working together. Just like Muhammed Ali, more than 45 years ago, let’s not hold back our punches to fight for women’s empowerment.