Her Majesty Queen Máxima on Wednesday exchanged views with development partners and financial technology (Fintech) sector ,organised and hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) at the UN offices in Dhaka.
This is the second visit of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA) to Bangladesh. Her first visit to Bangladesh was in her capacity as UNSGSA in November 2015.
In her opening remarks, Queen Maxima said she was excited with Bangladesh’s progress during the two and half years from her last visit. “A lot has actually happened since then. Financial Inclusion has increased from 31% in 2014 to 50% in 2017 and so this is actually very exciting.”
“And this is primarily has happened through mobile financial services, so basic technology has played a very important role. Just to give an idea, it went from 2.7% in 2014 to 21% in 2017.”
“So of course, given the high-density population of Bangladesh, it is actually very good because with that amount of people, all the distance you need to move to actually have any access is a lot higher than other countries.”
However, Máxima also pointed out a number of issues that are holding Bangladesh back in terms of full financial inclusion, or financial inclusion that ‘affects’ all of the Sustainable Development Goals, with gender disparity on top of the list.
“65% of Bangladeshi men have accounts, compared to only 36% of women. Bangladesh’s gender gap in financial access grew a staggering 20 percentage points from 2014 to 2017” she added.
Earlier Sudipto Mukerjee, Resident Representative of UNDP, welcomed the Queen and thanked her for visiting Bangladesh twice as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development. He said “H.M. Queen Máxima’s second visit shows her commitment in improving women's access to financial services and supporting women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh.”
Representatives of the Fintech stakeholders and development partners pointed out their observations, suggestions and areas of development to increase financial inclusion and lower inequalities to aid Bangladesh in its progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development goals.
Members of key Fintech organisations like Grameen Phone, bKash, Brac Bank, Bank Asia, Surecash, D Money, Shop Up, IFDC and regulators Bangladesh Bank were present in the roundtables.
Key development partners like DFID, IFC, Swiss Embassy, World Bank, UNCDF, Nathan Associates, USAID, IMF, GiIZ, Swisscontact and Helvetas were also present.
While summarizing the discussion, Sudipto urged all to finalise and implement the people-centric National Financial Inclusion Strategy soon, to reduce the inequality and fight poverty.