1st International FIN-B Financial Inclusion Conference and Inclusion Fair 2019
The first two-day long FIN-B International Conference and Inclusion Fair 2019 was held at the Krishibid Institution, Bangladesh in Dhaka on 30 July 2019. This was organised by the Institute for Inclusive Finance and Development (InM) in collaboration with event partners including SHIFT SAARC of UNCDF, Concern Worldwide, Bank Asia Limited, bKash, Water.org, and Business Finance for the Poor-Bangladesh (BFP-B) project of DFID/UKAid. The first day of the Conference was attended by policymakers, researchers, and representatives from banks, microfinance institutes, government agencies, insurance companies and civil society, among others.
Dr. Mashiur Rahman, Adviser on Economic Affairs to the Prime Minister inaugurated the Conference as the chief guest while the Chairman of InM, Dr. Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad chaired the inaugural session. Dr. Mustafa K. Mujeri, Executive Director, InM welcomed the participants and hoped that the knowledge acquired from the conference would help innovate new pathways to promote the financial inclusion agenda. He added that the Conference would give significant opportunities for cross-learning across the diverse audience over the complex issues and challenges facing the financial inclusion for all agenda in Bangladesh.
Dr. Mashiur Rahman, in his speech, observed that“Bangladesh is a pioneer in financial inclusion with its strides towards ‘Digital Bangladesh’, rapid development of the financial sector, rich heritage in microfinance, and unprecedented gains in adopting digital finance and expanding mobile financial services. The government treats finance as a powerful tool of inclusive growth and shared prosperity”. He further observed that financial inclusion of the poorest; particularly their access to small-sized credit was a major tool in Bangladesh for combating poverty. He added that“whatever responsibilities we have to carry out, we must concentrate on them, and perform honestly; but we must, at the same time, work towards ensuring equitable and sustainable improvement in the circumstances of those who are now left behind; for them to enjoy universal human rights and live in a humanly dignified fashion.” Dr Rahman called for strengthening financial capabilities in several key areas including provision of financial education tools for better management of income, encouraging households to use long term savings products to effectively manage savings goals, providing clear implications of debt burden to facilitate responsibly borrowing, generating awareness on alternative risk coping mechanisms, education on exercising consumer rights and accessing grievance channels, and removing mindset barriers to using new financial products and services.
Dr. Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, Chairman, InM delivered the ground-laying speech on the topic titled “Human Dignity and Financial Inclusion” in the first plenary which was the main theme of the conference. He observed that financial services not only have a positive impact at the individual and household levels but, if done sustainably and in suitable scales could have a broader positive impact on national development by helping to lower transaction costs, manage risks, and even mitigate economic inequality and foster human dignity. He added that financial, as well as non-financial interventions, were necessary to ensure socioeconomic progress and human dignity which played vital roles to ensure participation of persons in social activities, increase self-esteem and human freedom.
In the first academic session on the theme “Financial Inclusion Landscape in Bangladesh: Strengths and Weaknesses”, three papers were presented. The session was chaired by Mr Khondkar Ibrahim Khaled, former Chairman, Bangladesh Krishi Bank (BKB). Dr Atiur Rahman, former Governor of Bangladesh Bank chaired the second academic session where papers were presented by Major General Sheikh Md. Monirul Islam (retd.) of bKash, and Mr. Arfan Ali, President and MD of Bank Asia Limited, among others.
Prof, Arup Choudhuri, Chairman & CEO of Acasia Global Consulting LLP, India, in his keynote speech, spoke about the issues of financial inclusion, social inclusion and poverty alleviation in India. He discussed several case studies from India to give the audience a ground-level view of the dynamics of social changes. Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, Chairman of PKSF & InM, chaired the session.
An informative presentation by Muhymin Chowdhury and Mabubur Rahman from BFP-B provided in-depths on Omni-channel distribution models as a source of competitive advantage for banks and financial institution. Mr. Feisal Hussain, Team leader, BFP-B Project moderated the session.
The second day of the conference was started with a keynote speech of former Governor of the Bangladesh Bank, Dr Atiur Rahman. In his keynote speech on “Leadership and Financial Inclusion”, highlighted the necessity of right leadership to implement financial inclusion agenda so that all excluded people, especially the poor and underprivileged segments of the society, get the benefit of financial inclusion and accelerate the pace of socioeconomic improvement. This was followed by the academic session on innovative models and approaches for financial inclusion in which several success cases were discussed along with their possibilities of replication.
A panel discussion on “How Can Digital Platforms Meet the Financing Gaps for MSMEs in Bangladesh?” was chaired by Md. Ashraful Alam, Country Project Coordinator, SHIFT SAARC, UNCDF.
Mr Rajeev Kumar Gupta, SHIFT Programme Manager-ASEAN & SAARC, UNCDF in his keynote speech on “Leveraging Data to Advance Financial Inclusion” explored the possibilities of using the right information to extend financial inclusion. The session was chaired by Professor S. R. Osmani, of the University of Ulster,
The learning session of the Conference on “Human Dignity and Financial Inclusion” was chaired by Dr Toufic Ahmad Choudhury, former Director-General, BIBM. In the session, issues of financial inclusion with human dignity was articulated by Mr Anir Chowdhury, Mr. Kamal Quadir, Mr. S. M. Rabiul Hassan, Ms. Laura Ralston and Dr. Mustafa K Mujeri.
The closing ceremony was chaired by Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad in which Dr Gowher Rizvi, Adviser on International Relation Affairs to the Prime Minister was present as the Chief Guest and Mr Ahmed Mushtaque Reza Chowdhury, former Vice-Chairman, BRAC was present as the special guest. In the session, it was agreed that the framework that has come out through the discussion in the Conference for promoting financial inclusion for the excluded and disadvantaged groups which upholds human dignity will have implications for our future policies and the interest and enthusiasm shown by the participants is indeed a good sign for the future.
During the two-day conference, a total of fifteen papers were presented by different experts on six different themes which provided an opportunity to the policymakers, financial experts, practitioners, academicians and stakeholders to discuss financial inclusion challenges, identify innovative solutions and share experience covering both demand and supply-side issues. It was agreed that the recommendations of the Conference would be crafted with a focus on four key aspects of financial inclusion: (i) a framework for promoting financial inclusion for the excluded and disadvantaged groups that uphold human dignity; (ii) codes of conduct and best practices for developing customised financial products and services; (iii) coordinated principles and strategies for financial literacy and education; and (iv) best practices for different stakeholders including banks, financial institutions, telcos, and the regulators. It was hoped that these recommendations would serve as a benchmark for the upcoming activities of the Financial Inclusion Network-Bangladesh (FIN-B).