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A financially inclusive ecosystem that takes on board all financial service providers will enhance the regional integration agenda espoused by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

Pursuant to this objective, the COMESA Monetary Institute (CMI) has begun the process of developing a model strategy for enhancing financial inclusion in its member States.

Working with the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Alliance Forum Foundation (Japan), the CMI organized a workshop in Nairobi (24 February – 1 March 2016) for COMESA member States titled “Enhancing Financial Inclusion in COMESA Region - through Enhancement of the Regulatory and Supervisory Framework.”

The workshop was attended by participants from Burundi, Union of the Comoros, Djibouti, DR Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Rwanda, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The workshop followed a directive by the COMESA Committee of Governors of Central Banks held in Lusaka, Zambia in November 2015, to develop a model strategy for enhancing financial inclusion in the COMESA Region.

The workshop produced a regulatory and supervision frame work which balances financial inclusion and financial stability and also recommended the preparation of Model Strategy for Financial inclusion in COMESA Region from 2017-2022.

The framework details performance benchmarks for financial inclusion; a wider basket of products and services for financially excluded and possible delivery channels of the identified services.

The Governor, Central Bank of Kenya Dr. Patrick Njoroge told the delegates that the development of proportionate, risk based, regulations by policy makers was critical to guaranteeing the development of a dynamic, robust and sustainable microfinance framework for a country.

Citing the case for Kenya, the Governor stated: “While commendable achievements have been made, in the past six years the microfinance sector is faced with key challenges, which include among others high cost of credit, inadequate products and services and weak consumer protection framework.”

He therefore emphasized the critical role of Central Banks in providing a diverse range of financial products to the unbanked.

“The role of the Central Bank of Kenya in this regard is centered on the promotion of an enabling legal and regulatory framework that fosters the development of a diverse range of financial service providers while guaranteeing its dual mandate of financial stability and financial integrity,” Dr Njoroge said.

The Director of the CMI Mr. Ibrahim Zeidy said that COMESA’s integration agenda requires enhanced private sector development that ensures sufficient access to finance by Micro, Small and Medium enterprises. In this regard, he emphasized the importance of preparing a Model Regional Financial Inclusion Strategy which is aimed at providing a blueprint for enhancing financial inclusion in the region.

The Chairman of Board, Alliance Forum Foundation and Special Advisor to the Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister of Japan Mr. George Hara underscored the importance of Public Interest Capitalism. He said this was the key to creating a thick layer of middle class.

“Such a system will enable companies to serve the interest of all stakeholders, namely customers, employees, executives and business partners, through products, services, and employment,” he said.

Others who addressed the delegates included Mr. Tadashi Yokoyama and Mr. Julius Karuga of the African Development Bank Group.