May 29, 2017
Your excellencies – Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Heads of UN agencies, Ladies and Gentlemen. Good evening. It is my pleasure to address you at this Innovation Hub event for the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme’s inaugural RJS Innovation Award.
The European Union (EU) has had the pleasure of working the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (or PFIP) since 2008. Over this time, much headway has been made in the area of financial inclusion in Papua New Guinea.
The European Union (EU) firmly believes that facilitating access to finance is a key driver of Private Sector Development and hence it is one of the main ways that the EU helps partner countries to achieve inclusive and sustainable growth. The EU’s development strategy aims to create economic and social opportunities for disadvantaged and marginalised sections of the population with low or no access to financial services, both at the household level and micro, small and medium-sized businesses (MSMEs).
For these reasons, in Papua New Guinea, the EU’s Rural Economic Development Programme II (RED2) strategy has included a significant investment into access to financial services for agricultural value chain financing in the Highlands region, as a key component to reach the programme’s overall objective of contributing to improving livelihoods of people living in rural areas of Papua New Guinea.
PFIP operates on the cutting edge of financial inclusion. Driven by a firm belief that customer engagement is key to successful financial service deployments, PFIP is pursuing an ‘innovation lab’ approach, driving digital financial services for underbanked populations such as the remote areas of the Highlands region that prove extremely difficult for traditional financial services to access. PFIP does this by catalysing financial service providers to focus on improving the customer experience, value proposition and ultimately adoption of financial services. PFIP’s new approach revolves around extensive field trials and prototype field testing.
As we all know, the Pacific is a challenging region for business and economic development for many reasons, in particular due to its challenging and dispersed terrain, diverse cultures and languages and small population size. For the formal financial sector, this means that traditional approaches to banking and financial services are very limited in geographical and population reach.
Hence, to succeed in driving meaningful financial inclusion in such an environment, innovative, creative approaches are mandatory, not optional. It is very encouraging to see more financial service providers coming on board and actively creating new products for the unbanked.
I see we have many industry representatives financial service providers represented here this evening. I would like to challenge and encourage you to push forward with creative and innovative solutions to improve financial inclusion in your work. I understand that the 2017 RJS Innovation Award is currently open, and would challenge you to bring the award back to Papua New Guinea for the second time in a row. The need and opportunity for financial inclusion is there, but we need creativity and customer-centred product, service and channel design to both meet customer needs effectively and create profitable and sustainable business models.
We at the EU believe the RJS Innovation Award is an excellent opportunity to recognize and celebrate outstanding achievements and look forward to seeing what the future holds for financial inclusion in the Pacific region and we wish the winners all the very best.