May 17, 2019
Port Vila, Vanuatu – A one day briefing was held last Wednesday at the Warwick Le Lagon Resort by the National Financial Inclusion Council (NFIC) to provide an update on financial inclusion achievements made in the past year. The Council, which is chaired by the Prime Minister of Vanuatu, Hon. Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas, includes ministers of key portfolios such as Tourism, Finance, Education and Agriculture and the Governor of Reserve Bank.
The Australian High Commission was represented by Mr. Clinton Pobke – Program Director of Governance for Growth Program, who alongside the Prime Minister unveiled upcoming digital financial products and services.
The briefing was facilitated by the Reserve Bank of Vanuatu (RBV) in partnership with members of the National Financial Inclusions Taskforce (NFIT) and was attended by representatives including the New Zealand High Commissioner to Vanuatu H.E. Jonathan Schwass, senior Government officials, CEOs and senior officials of financial service providers, mobile network operators and civil society representatives.
Attendees heard about some of the new and upcoming innovative initiatives that are currently being tested and awaiting deployment in the market in the months to come. These initiatives have been funded through the UNCDF Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) and the Governments of New Zealand and Australia. These include:
Digital Financial Services have been set as a key priority under the 2018 – 2023 National Financial Inclusion Strategy with the government aiming to extend financial access to the 32% of Ni-Vanuatu adults who are excluded from both formal and informal financial services.
The Governor of the Reserve Bank of Vanuatu, Simeon Malachi Athy in his welcome address at the meeting said “innovative financial inclusion means improving access to financial services for the disadvantaged and marginalized Ni-Vanuatu through the safe and sound spread of new approaches or technologies. Good policies and regulation are critical to support current innovations and to strengthen ﬁnancial inclusion. This is because the enabling environment will critically determine the speed at which the access gap for financial services will be narrowed.”
The Governor added “the world today is powered by businesses innovation which leads to efficiency gains and faster economic growth to meet the challenges of tomorrow. Therefore, there is a great need for collaboration between appropriate authorities to help create an enabling policy and regulatory environment for innovative ﬁnancial inclusion”
PFIP Deputy Programme Manager Krishnan Narasimhan said severe climate related natural disasters are becoming increasingly frequent in the Pacific with Vanuatu being the most vulnerable.
“PFIP in partnership with MCII completed the initial feasibility assessments in Vanuatu and are now developing a comprehensive disaster risk manager and financing framework, we will work with all stakeholders in developing the implementation strategy.”
He further added “PFIP through its grant and technical support to digital financial service providers like NBV, TVL and VanCare is committed to supporting RBV in its implementation of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy. This support comes through funding from the Australian Government Governance for Growth program and we are thankful to them for the assistance.
PFIP is a Pacific-wide programme that has helped over two million Pacific islanders gain access to financial services and financial education. It achieves these results by funding innovation with financial services and delivery channels, supports policy and regulatory initiatives, and the empowerment of consumers.
It is jointly administered by the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and receives funding from the Australian Government, the European Union and the New Zealand Government. PFIP operates from the UNDP Pacific Office in Suva, Fiji and has offices in Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Samoa and Solomon Islands.