Skopje Consensus sets stage for financial inclusion success in Eastern Europe and Central Asia
Skopje Consensus sets stage for financial inclusion success in Eastern Europe and Central Asia The National Bank of the Republic of Macedonia (NBRM) and the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI), with support of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the State Secretariat of Economic Affairs (SECO) of Switzerland, held the AFI Network’s first Eastern Europe and Central Asia (ECA) Regional Forum on Financial Inclusion Policy from 26-28 October 2015 in Skopje, Macedonia.The event’s high point saw participants from 17 policymaking institutions from the ECA endorse the Skopje Consensus, setting the stage for further engagement with the AFI Network. NBRM Governor Dimitar Bogov officially announced the adoption of the Skopje Consensus at the conclusion of the second day of meetings. He made note of his institution’s strong support, and praised potential benefits of this initiative for the entire region. The Skopje Consensus focuses on four areas of regional cooperation: digital financial services (DFS), small and medium enterprise (SME) finance, consumer education and market conduct (CEMC) and financial inclusion data (FID). However, all members highlighted the importance of being able to adapt to and incorporate new focus areas as they arise, as well as what they viewed as an opportunity to use this initiative as a tool for deeper engagement with the international standard setting bodies (SSBs).Mikhail Mamuta, President at Russian Microfinance Center (RMC), stated the consensus would play a major role on shaping the future of financial inclusion policy for the ECA. “This is an important step, but just a beginning of a long way forward for our region. Our countries are similar and the importance and potential of the regional co-operation is recognized by all.”Echoing this sentiment, Armenuhi Mkrtchyan, Head of Consumer Protection and Financial Education Center at the Central Bank of Armenia (CBA), expressed confidence in the process and the potential for financial inclusion in the ECA: “Success comes when the time is right and you work with the right people. Now the idea for regional cooperation is mature, and we will push it forward with joint efforts.”The regional forum engaged a broad spectrum of policymakers and regulators from the ECA region, including those not yet members of AFI, in sharing knowledge and policy practices. Over the three days of meetings, participants explored opportunities for peer learning with AFI members from other world regions where proven expertise could help policymakers in the ECA strengthen technical capacity and improve policy.The adoption of the Skopje Consensus follows financial inclusion regional initiatives introduced in Africa (AMPI), Latin America and most recently in the Pacific (PIRI). The full text of the Consensus is available here.
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