Maya Declaration at heart of efforts to drive financial inclusion in Africa

Chris Hughes

Tiémoko Meyliet Kone, Governor at BCEAO, speaks at the 4th Annual AMPI Leaders’ Roundtable in Dakar, Senegal, in February 2016.

The Alliance for Financial Inclusion’s (AFI) Maya Declaration is a proven driver of successful evidence-based financial inclusion policy solutions, particularly relating to digital financial services. Nowhere has the impact of commitment to this initiative been more evident than in Africa.

The importance of the Maya Declaration was apparent among policymakers at the recent African Mobile Phone Financial Services Policy Initiative (AMPI) Leaders’ Roundtable in Dakar, Senegal. AFI members, along with our partners, in attendance articulated their appreciation for the Maya as a mechanism that allows policymakers to apply positive peer pressure to promote financial inclusion.

Announced five years ago at the AFI Global Policy Forum in Riviera Maya, Mexico, the Maya Declaration was a statement of common principles and a clarion call for financial inclusion to assume a larger part of the global debate. AFI members then took another important step in 2012 to expand Maya from a declaration to a long-term process with measureable and accountable commitments.

In Dakar, AFI’s African members made clear an intent to keep the Maya Declaration at the heart of AMPI as the initiative has grown to represent three qualities that have become synonymous with a fully-independent and member-owned AFI network: Leadership, promise and accountability.

We’ve seen that the defining characteristics of leadership are reflected in the standards to which leaders hold themselves accountable. The Maya Declaration enables AFI members to hold themselves accountable to one another, and deliver on the promise inherent in those commitments.

Banco de Moçambique Governor Ernesto Gove participates in the AMPI Leaders' Roundtable in Dakar in February 2016.

Banco de Moçambique Governor Ernesto Gove participates in the AMPI Leaders’ Roundtable in Dakar in February 2016.

In Africa, for example, AFI members from 25 nations have outlined 19 specific Maya commitments, many with a focus on digital financial services. All of these commitments hold the promise to improve the lives of many different people in many different ways.

That promise might be as simple as helping a local fisherman access a loan for a new boat and nets. Or, it might be as extraordinary as to contributing to humanitarian relief efforts during times of crisis.

An example of the latter occurred during the the Ebola virus outbreak in Sierra Leone, when mobile financial services made a dramatic impact on the ground.

At the time of the emergency, the central bank was already working to achieve its Maya Declaration commitment of creating a regulatory framework with specific guidelines on MFS to construct an enabling environment for mobile financial services. However, during the crisis, an urgent need to provide financial services for health workers in the country developed—a need that was especially acute in rural areas.

Sierra Leone’s mobile money providers were engaged by international and national organizations. Hazard payments were made through a consortium of private sector partners like Airtel, Africell, and Splash Money. The Government of Sierra Leone then developed safety net payments to 150,000 poor households in rural areas, using mobile money providers and other financial institutions such as the community banks and financial services associations.

Meanwhile, in Liberia, a focus on the eradication of the virus heightened and intensified efforts to achieve the central bank’s Maya Declaration commitment to ensure that mobile financial services reach at least 50 percent of the population. In this regard, the Central Bank of Liberia is supporting the initiative of the Government with technical support from USAID to facilitate payment of civil servant salaries and other benefits, as well as revenue collection, through the use of mobile money. Efforts in Liberia are also being made to promote the wider use of MFS by bringing more participants into the mobile money space.

Panelists from the AFI network discuss promoting financial inclusion in Africa via digital financial services at the 4th Annual AMPI Leaders' Roundtable in Dakar in February 2016.

Kennedy Komba (far right), from the Bank of Tanzania, along with other panelists from the AFI network, discuss promoting financial inclusion in Africa via digital financial services at the 4th Annual AMPI Leaders’ Roundtable in Dakar in February 2016.

East Africa offers some of the most dramatic examples, but there is currently a financial inclusion revolution in the digital financial services space from the Cape to Cairo.

AFI Maya Declaration commitments are helping to drive this revolution forward, in large part because institutions hold themselves and one another accountable to realize their financial inclusion targets. Evidence of this accountability is visible across the African continent, including in the commitments achieved in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Tanzania, where:

  • The Central Bank of the Congo realized its commitment to introduce mobile banking, as well as other means such as banking agents, by end of December 2012 in order to reach the unbanked, increasing at the same time, the nation’s banking penetration rate;
  • The Bank of Tanzania realized its commitment to implement interoperability solutions for efficiency and affordability for increased access by 2013;
  • And, the Bank of Mozambique realized its commitment to approve and implement agent banking regulatory framework by 2014.

Leadership, promise and accountability.

As African leaders push ahead with the goal to establish a physical presence for the network in Africa, these three themes, along with the Maya Declaration and AMPI, will continue to persist in our members’ efforts to make a real impact in the lives of the excluded by breaking down barriers that prevent access to high-quality, affordable and secure financial services for everyone.

Chris Hughes is the Communications Manager at the Alliance for Financial Inclusion. Follow him on Twitter at @chughes222.

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