FIGI funds national implementations in three countries—China, Egypt and Mexico. These countries were selected using a range of factors,1 including the level of political and private sector commitment to financial inclusion, the number of unbanked people who could be reached through digital financial services, and the potential for reforms to encourage innovation and the use of digital technologies to expand financial access.
FIGI country programs provide tailored technical support (including diagnostic assessments, advisory services, technical assistance, capacity-building, and pilots of innovative approaches) relevant to digital financial inclusion, with a focus on improving the legal and regulatory framework, financial markets infrastructure, and ICT infrastructure.
The country programs are designed to strengthen and implement core drivers of financial inclusion to reach universal financial access: financial product design (including digital payments and other financial services), financial literacy and awareness, diversifying access points, and leveraging large-volume, recurring payment streams. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has expanded rapidly from a health emergency to an extraordinary shock to the global economy with far reaching consequences for financial markets. Emerging markets and developing countries, some of which were prone to financial market volatility before the coronavirus pandemic, are especially exposed. Governments and policymakers around the world, including in FIGI countries, are taking swift action to respond to COVID-19 and offset negative effects on firms and vulnerable individuals. A subset of the many financial inclusion and telecommunication related policy responses that have been enacted by FIGI countries is presented in this document.
The FIGI project supports the Egyptian authorities in their efforts to expand financial inclusion by helping authorities develop and modernize payments systems and strategies (including retail payments), improve consumer protection, leverage innovative technologies and data-driven solutions for financial inclusion, 1 FIGI country selection was based on a systematic evaluation against the PAFI guiding framework, using data from the World Bank’s Global Payment Systems Survey, Global Findex, World Development Indicators, IMF’s Financial Access Survey, and ITU’s ICT Development Index, among other sources. further expansion of digital financial products and services and improve ICT for digital financial services. Most recently, the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) and the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) finalized their respective financial consumer protection regulations with technical inputs from the FIGI project. These regulations are harmonized across common products that are regulated by the two institutions. The CBE recently adopted and circulated these in a circular dated 19th February, 2019 on Banking Sector Consumer Protection. The comprehensive financial consumer protection guidelines document by FRA was also approved by the FRA Board in March.
COVID-19 response in Egypt: In Egypt, interest rates on loans have been reduced and limits on electronic payments via mobile phones has been raised. In addition, authorities worked with telecommunication operators to grant free minutes and data to all COVID-19 related doctors, nurses, and other related staff and personnel.
The Financial Inclusion Global Initiative supports the Chinese authorities in their efforts to expand financial inclusion by helping provide assistance around developing innovative products and services targeted to meet the needs of China’s underserved populations, enhancing the usage of products and services through agents, leveraging innovative technologies to improve current infrastructures, developing enabling legal / regulatory frameworks for Fin- Tech to promote financial inclusion and improving ICT for digital financial services.
COVID-19 response in China: Some policy responses in China include extending credit to micro and small enterprises, providing tax relief and waiving social security contributions, delaying loan payments for eligible SMEs and households, and allowing higher NPLs by epidemic-hit sectors and SMEs. Authorities also provide up-to-date information on the COVID-19 crisis.
The Financial Inclusion Global Initiative supports the Mexican authorities in their efforts to expand financial inclusion by helping provide assistance around enhancing the usage of products and services through agents and electronic payments, leveraging innovative technologies and solutions to improve identification and know-your-customer regulations for financial services, developing enabling legal / regulatory frameworks for FinTech to promote financial inclusion, enhancing consumer protection, awareness and financial literacy, improving the delivery of social benefit programs nationwide and improving ICT for digital financial services. Recently, the FIGI Mexico team worked closely with the Mexican authorities on the release of secondary regulations (following the FinTech law) around the registration of FinTech companies as Financial Technology Institutions. The FIGI Mexico team also supported a Financial Education Workshop for Policy Makers in Mexico held In July 2019.
COVID-19 response in Mexico: In Mexico, policymakers have advanced pension payments to the elderly, frontloaded social pension and disability payments by four months, opened financing facilities for commercial and development banks to foster lending to MSMEs and individuals affected by the COVID-19, and allowed workers to access loans against social security accounts. Authorities have also worked with mobile operators to enable free, temporary voice calling and message (SMS) packages for prepaid users, and users can continue, at no cost, placing calls to emergency services and browsing government’s coronavirus webpages and mobile applications (hosted by the Ministry of Health).
FIGI country programs are closely coordinated with the FIGI Working Groups to bring innovative approaches, best practices, toolkits and policy recommendations developed by the working groups to the country implementation programs to be considered by the country authorities for piloting and implementation. Learnings and progress are reported during the Global FIGI Symposia.