Financial Inclusion for the Arab Region Initiative

Arab countries have recognized Financial Inclusion as a key policy objective to stimulate socio-economic wellbeing, equality, and shared prosperity as well as to strengthen financial stability. Accessible, appropriate, and affordable financial services can enable the unbanked 63 percent of the region’s population to enter the formal economy and contribute to and benefit from sustainable development in accordance with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Multiple efforts have been undertaken by Arab financial regulators and the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF) to spearhead Financial Inclusion in the Arab region. The Council of Arab Central Bank and Monetary Authority Governors initiated the establishment of the regional Financial Inclusion Task Force (FITF) in 2012 as the main mechanism to support policymakers and regulators in addressing financial inclusion issues and in 2016 it endorsed the Arab Financial Inclusion Day taking place annually on April 27.

The Arab Monetary Fund (AMF), the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) on behalf of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) established under the auspice of the Council of Arab Central Banks and Monetary Authorities’ Governors the Financial Inclusion for the Arab Region Initiative (FIARI). The World Bank joined as partner. The Initiative was launched on September 14, 2017 during the AFI Global Policy Forum held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt in the presence of Arab Central Bank Governors.

FIARI supports financial inclusion policies for expanding the access to appropriate financial services for the underserved and excluded citizens and businesses. The initiative covers:

  • Financial inclusion strategies and data
  • Women’s financial inclusion
  • Financing of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) 
  • Startup financing
  • Financial Technology and Digital finance
  • Agricultural Finance
  • Green finance
  • Microfinance
  • Financial market infrastructure
  • Responsible finance, consumer protection, and financial education.

At the regional level, the Initiative bolsters peer-to-peer learning, training, and knowledge exchange among policymakers, regulators, and other sector stakeholders. At the national level, the Initiative supports country-specific programs, coordination, and technical assistance or advisory services.

The Initiative’s long-term goal is that policies for sustainable financial inclusion of Arab societies are developed and implemented in view of contributing to inclusive, long-term growth and shared prosperity in the countries of the region in alignment with the SDGs. It aims at (1) improved knowledge and capability of financial inclusion policymakers and (2) committed members engaging in reforms.

Financial policymakers and regulators in the Initiative:

  • Share lessons from financial inclusion policy and regulatory reforms with peers from the region and beyond.
  • Enhance implementation of national financial inclusion policies.
  • Partake in high-level dialogue for guidance and coordinate development of financial inclusion policies for addressing regional challenges.

The Initiative has so far yielded a series of capacity building programmes, high-level policy conferences, peer-learning fora, in-country missions, the development of methods and tools, and knowledge products. Outcomes are based on demand of Arab policymakers and regulators who work at the forefront of financial inclusion.

The organizations behind FIARI are coordinating through an Executive Committee that sets the annual workplan in consultation with the FITF group, while day-to-day activities are managed with the support of the Technical Secretariat hosted at the AMF.