Dubai / WAM
His Highness Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chief of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince’s Court, on Monday inaugurated the Microcredit Summit, which is being held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Council.
Organised jointly by Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, the Arab Gulf Programme for Development (AGFUND), and the Microcredit Summit Campaign, the summit explores how new and effective financial policies can contribute to the success of the Universal Financial Access 2020 goal, the World Bank 2030 goals, and the UN Global Goals. The event runs until March 17 at Jumeirah Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi.
The opening ceremony welcomed VIP guests and central banks managers in the MENA region, as well as leaders and game changers in the field of microfinance to discuss strategies of financial inclusion.
The list of VIP guests and visitors include, in addition to HH Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed, HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia; Queen Sofia of Spain, Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, Minister of Economy of the UAE; Prof. Muhammad Yunus, Chairman of Yunus Centre and Founder of Grameen Bank, Dhaka, Bangladesh; and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006; Hussain J. Al Nowais, Chairman of Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development; and Larry Reed,
Director of the Microcredit Summit Campaign in the USA.
In his opening speech, HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud said, “For the past two decades, the partnership between AGFUND and Microcredit Campaign has been getting stronger over time. Ever since the first Microcredit Summit was held in 1997, both organisations have had mutual understanding on mechanisms of supporting microfinance as part of the global human development plan, and the current statistics reflect the success of this partnership. From that day on, AGFUND started to establish banks specialised in implementing financial inclusion, which will eventually end the severe poverty. So far, we have established 9 banks in Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, Sirloin, Lebanon, Sudan, Palestine and Mauritania. As a result, 2,800,000 people has benefited from this project.”
Prince Abdulaziz added, “Our broader strategy, values and policies here at AGFUND, focus on equality between all communities, and providing the marginalised individuals keys to financial independence. This is the reason why we believe that financial inclusion is a social and economic priority. Consequently, we ask all governments to apply this principle moving forward.”
Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, Minister of Economy, said, “2015 was the innovation year, as different governmental entities contributed with more than 100 innovative initiatives. The value of investments on innovative projects is worth US$300 billion. This will surely position the UAE as one of the leading countries for innovation by 2021, which is in line with the overall strategy of innovation in the country.”
Hussain J. Al Nowais, Chairman of Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development said, “Khalifa Fund has launched four different microfinance projects, which were planned and developed to achieve three main objectives: maintaining Emirati traditional through small projects, ensuring financial independence and stability to individuals with low income and most importantly women empowerment. Today, eight years after the foundation of Khalifa Fund, we have managed to achieve the objectives of the fund through launching these small projects. It is also important to note that 88 percent of the microfinance projects supported by Khalifa Fund are managed by women.
Dr. Abdulrahman A. Al-Hamidi, Director General and Chairman of the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF), emphasised the growing importance of promoting financial inclusion, and supporting the micro, small and medium business development which are one of the key areas for ensuring economic growth and job creation in the Arab region.
He pointed out the lowest level of financial inclusion in the Arab region compared to other regions in the world where, according to the World Bank data, there are 16 to 17 million of small business in the Arab region without access to financing and official financial services. He noted that these relatively low figures are related to high unemployment rate, particularly for youth, which is the highest among the regional groupings and stressed that, according to the Arab Monetary Fund, the youth unemployment rate (16-25 years) rises to about 28 percent among the Arab countries in 2015, compared to 12.4 percent across the world, and for women in the region this figure is much higher and reaches 43 percent against 12.4 percent worldwide.
Larry Reed, Director of Microcredit Summit Campaign, said, “We have 1000 delegates from 60 countries, including 250 from the UAE and a delegation of over 100 from Bangladesh at the summit. I want to thank all of you for making the commitment of your time and resources to be with us. We come together to create a bazaar of ideas and examples, to learn from each other’s and gain confidence by sharing our own.”
The summit includes 19 plenary sessions that host a number of experts in microfinance and financial inclusion. One of the sessions is about ‘Digital Revolution and Financial Inclusion” and “Lessons Learned from Government, Social Protection, Programmes and the Graduation Approach” and “The Role of Savings Groups in Building Assets and Financial Capability”, “Doing It Big or Small: Health and Microfinance at Your Level” and “Innovating agricultural Solutions to Meet Small holder Needs”.
The Arab Monetary Fund will host a meeting of Central Bank Governors with 17 member country representatives, discussing the process of aligning their regulatory regimes to facilitate microfinance and other financial inclusion tools such as digital transaction platforms, government cash transfers, and other programmes serving the socially and financially excluded.