December 16, 2016 Freetown –
“Leaving nobody behind” is the very foundation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Therefore, we are happy to be working on this important initiative – which will make sure that more people in Sierra Leone have access to finance – together with the Bank of Sierra Leone
Sunil Saigal, Resident Coordinator, United Nations in Sierra Leone
The Bank of Sierra Leone is launching the National Strategy for Financial Inclusion, which will accelerate access to financial services for over 87% of the economically active population who are currently left out of the formal and regulated financial system.
Why does financial inclusion matter? With no access to formal financial services it’s difficult for people to build up savings or buy insurance, which makes households more vulnerable to potential risks and shocks. Also, small businesses in important sectors such as agriculture find it difficult to build assets or obtain financing to increase productivity, expand or hire more people.
The National Strategy for Financial Inclusion is a four-year plan that is developed through a consultative process in order to ensure that key stakeholders will work together to play their important roles in contributing to, and driving, financial inclusion.
According to Central Bank Governor K. Marah, “the Strategy is a guiding tool; it is a result of extensive engagements and consultations with government agencies, private sector stakeholders and representatives of consumer bodies. We will strengthen delivery of affordable and transformative financial services for our farmers, rural markets, youth, and other agents of growth.”
The National Strategy prioritizes new and innovative partnerships in order to ensure that common service standard and shared delivery channels are built to improve outreach and lower cost for the customer. Digital payments are a key pillar of the new National Strategy for Financial Inclusion. The Government of Sierra Leone is a member of the UN’s Better Than Cash Alliance – a global partnership of 55 governments, companies and international organizations committed to moving away from cash to digital payments to reduce poverty and drive inclusive growth.
Financial inclusion has also been identified as one of the Sustainable Development Goals, a set of targets that will guide the international development agenda over the next decade.
According to United Nations Resident Coordinator Sunil Saigal, “Greater access to financial services is a key enabler for many of the Sustainable Development Goals. We are aiming to make sure nobody is left behind and being able to build up savings, for example, can have far reaching benefits for all.”
Sierra Leone is one of the countries where United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) is focusing its financial inclusion efforts through the joint United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)/UNCDF West Africa Digital Financial Inclusion Programme.
According to Gerd Trogemann, Africa Bureau UNDP Regional Service Centre Manager a.i., “UNDP and UNCDF have collaborated to deliver demand-driven technical assistance to the Bank of Sierra Leone and the wider digital financial inclusion stakeholders. This builds on the work of UNDP and UNCDF on mobile payments to Ebola Response Workers during the Ebola epidemic. We congratulate the Bank of Sierra Leone on the launch of this important document and look forward to working together on its implementation.”
The National Strategy is part of the national agenda to contribute to a deep, competitive and stable financial system that delivers transformative financial services: to make financial services available, accessible and affordable to all Sierra Leoneans and MSMEs, and support inclusive and resilient private-sector led growth. This is a national plan with measureable targets, namely the G-20 Financial Inclusion indicators, tracked on a quarterly basis.
Said Governor Marah at the launch held today, “Ultimately while there is a strong social case for financial inclusion, the business case is paramount for its success. With 87% of market yet to be captured, the opportunity is great for delivery of financial services to play the pivotal role for economic diversification, inclusive growth and greater dignity to the people and businesses of Sierra Leone.”