The National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) is the road map of actions, agreed and defined at both national and subnational level, which all stakeholders follow to achieve financial inclusion goals. It is a driver of economic growth in the country. Financial inclusion in Zimbabwe is defined as ‘the effective use of a wide range of quality, affordable and accessible financial services, provided in a fair and transparent manner through formal or regulated entities; by all Zimbabweans.
NFI strategies provide an important opportunity to introduce an evidence-based, prioritized, better resourced and more comprehensive approach to expanding access and usage of financial services. National strategy with other goals and targets, support coordination among public and private stakeholders and provide an organizing framework for financial inclusion, policies and regulations to be implemented.
The development and implementation of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy for Zimbabwe is aimed at ensuring the existence of an inclusive financial sector that broadens access to and use of financial services by all with engendering social and economic development.
The broadening of access to and usage of financial services in Zimbabwe stimulates financial savings and investment and increases the level of loanable funds. This will have substantial positive impact on people’s lives through reduction of poverty and inequalities and promotion of economic growth, while mitigating systemic risk and maintaining financial stability.
Gaps have been identified through research and these still exist at the level of access to and usage of quality financial products and services. The gaps are pronounced among special groups which include Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), women, youth, rural population and small scale agricultural sector.
Gaps identified for Women
Focusing on women, a number of gaps in financial services have been identified which the financial inclusion seeks to address. Such gaps include, but are not limited to the following:
- Women are largely excluded from formal financial services and yet they make more than 50% of the population;
- 57% of business owners were identified to be women; and
- Most of these women do not have access to financial products such as loans and funding for their businesses due to lack of security of collateral to secure these loans as compared to their male counterparts.
Financial inclusion strategies for women:
The financial inclusion for women is calling for women to have access to a range of financial products and services that cater to their multiple business needs and household needs.
The National Financial Inclusion Strategy shall achieve financial inclusion of women through the following:
- Establish a Revolving Women Empowerment Fund which will be availed at affordable interest rates to support projects managed by women;
- Facilitate enhanced participation of women in the development of the country, through giving priority to potential women entrepreneurs;
- Strengthen women entrepreneurs’ human capital by developing appropriate entrepreneurial education and training opportunities;
- Raise awareness of financial products and financial services among women, through consumer education and financial literacy programs;
- Increase women’s awareness of their legal rights in respect of property ownership to improve access to collateral and control over assets, which in turn will enable women to access credit and other financial services from financial institutions;
- Build the capacity of financial institutions to better serve women entrepreneurs;
- Consider providing incentives and specific goals for increased procurement by government of goods and services from women owned enterprises (specifically women-owned MSMEs), as well as assist women in business to secure markets for their products;
- Build more inclusive public-private dialogue processes by empowering women’s networks to actively participate in policy dialogue;
- Banking institutions to develop appropriate collateral substitutes in order to address the challenge of security among women borrowers;
- The establishment of the Women’s Bank being spearheaded by the Ministry of Women Affairs; Gender & Community Development will promote financial inclusion of women in the country;
- Encourage financial institutions to conduct on-going self-assessments to determine whether their financial products and services address women’s needs. Accordingly, financial institutions are encouraged to invest in enhanced disaggregated data collection systems to facilitate tracking of their performance in respect of financial inclusion of currently under-served population segments (women, youth, MSMEs, rural populace).
- Policy-makers will invest in more gender disaggregated data collection and analysis for use by multiple stakeholders; and
- Strengthen consumer protection regulation that addresses the concerns and issues of women clients.
Stakeholders in the Implementation of National Financial Inclusion Strategy
Stakeholders identified to be key for the successful implementation of the NFIS for Zimbabwe include financial institutions, government agencies, regulatory bodies and business associations. Successful implementation of the NFIS requires involvement and commitment of various stakeholders thus a high level of leadership and political commitment is critical.
Pillars of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy
NFIS will evolve around four (4) main pillars which are:
Financial innovation which is the act of creating new financial services and products that are usable and lead to the improvement of people’s lives through the introduction of new financial technologies, institutions and markets. It includes institutional, product and process innovation.
Financial capability is the combination of attitude, knowledge, skills, needed to make and exercise money management decisions that best fit the circumstances of one’s life, within an enabling environment that includes, but is not limited to, access to appropriate financial services.
Financial consumer protection – are laws and regulations targeted at protecting consumers from fraud and sharp practices in financial services sector, enhance faster complaints handling and dispute resolution, consumer risk management framework among financial services operators and empower consumers of financial services to make better decisions through education. The broad objective of the framework is to ensure enhanced consumer/investor confidence in the financial services industry and promote financial stability, growth and innovation.
Microfinance refers to an array of financial services which includes loans, savings and insurance, available to small business owners and individuals who have no collateral and wouldn’t otherwise qualify for a standard bank loan.
The strategy proposes measures and specific activities to create profitable and sustainable microfinance institutions, facilitate the provision of client-centred and affordable financial services and fill the gaps between demand and supply for financial services especially among the target groups.
NFIS incorporates a financial inclusion measurement framework which defines key performance indicators that facilitate accurate diagnostics of the state of financial inclusion. Effective implementation of the strategy calls for a shared vision and a market systems approach. Usage of financial products can be measured by regularity, frequency and sustainability over time. The successful implementation of the NFIS will depend on the capacity, commitment and cooperation of the various stakeholders involved. Monitoring and evaluation framework will provide tracking system to evaluate the pace and progress of financial inclusion in Zimbabwe. The process of tracking financial inclusion targets will be coordinated by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
Financial services provided to Zimbabweans must be suitable for their requirements and needs. This includes the following:
- Effective use;
- Wide range of products and services- banking, insurance products and investment;
- Quality of products and service;
- Accessibility- within proximity of intended beneficiaries;
- Fairness and transparency- beneficiaries should have access to appropriate products and services without being subject to exploitation;
- Formal/ Regulated entities – formalize provision of financial services to the marginalized population in Zimbabwe. This reduces exploitation of low income groups by informal service providers. Majority of transactions would be conducted through a formal financial system which enables more effective monitoring; and
- Sustainability- reduction of transaction costs, offering better products and services that meet client needs.
Issues that the NFIS will address
Financial inclusion will address key dimensions which are access, usage, quality and welfare. It is believed that the successful implementation of the strategy will result in the use of financial services being part of day to day living of Zimbabweans. The use of formal financial products should be a way of life for all.
Some Strategic goals for the NFIS
- Increase the overall level of access to affordable and appropriate formal financial services within the country from 69% in 2014 ® 90% in 2020.
- Increase the proportion of banked adults from 30% in 2014 ® 60% in 2020.
- The strategy also recognizes the needs of special interest groups; namely women, youth, MSME’S, rural and small scale agricultural communities.
- The strategy will also focus on achieving the targeted level of financial inclusion in a sustainable manner.
- The effective implementation of NFIS includes communication. Communication will be used in all aspects and will guarantee success with the implementation of the strategy.
To this end, women must embrace the financial inclusion strategy and understand how they can benefit from it so that they develop their businesses and at the same time be able to participate in policy making issues that affect the financial products that they consume.
This summary was compiled by Manyara Chigunduru CA(Z), the Managing Partner of Marianhill Chartered Accountants and Sajni Naran a Corporate Finance Analyst in the Advisory Services division.
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