Last week we were in Vienna, where we participated in the Union of Arab Banks’ International Arab Banking Summit and joined a critical discussion about financial inclusion opportunities for the unbanked in emerging markets. This special invite came from the union’s Chairman, who also graciously requested that I join the forum as a member; a great honor that is traditionally reserved only for CEOs and Chairmen from the banking community.
MasterCard has been active in the Middle East for more than two decades, and during this time we have become embedded in the Arab Banking community. The theme of the summit was “The role of the Arab banking sector in civil capacity building and facing the challenges of post-conflict phase.” We shared our thoughts on the responsibilities the sector has in creating opportunities for communities, especially in the wake of the sensitive political situation in various markets.
There was a healthy debate with strong opposing views on the role of financial institutions to further financial inclusion. Some representatives argued that it is the role of governments rather than the banking community to further this cause.
We believe that the Arab banking sector needs to play a key role towards not only inspiring confidence amongst key stakeholders including the consumers, but also to perform the crucial task of bringing banking to the previously unbanked in emerging markets – which helps communities to help themselves.
MasterCard has been active in the financial inclusion space across the globe. In fact, also last week we launched a ground breaking mobile payment wallet in Egypt, which has the power to bring financial inclusion to the 65% of the Egyptian market lacking access to formal banking products.
Through education and innovative offerings that move beyond the traditional platforms, we as industry leaders have the power to reach millions of people in the Middle East who can in turn drive their economies by participating in the banking sector.
What do you think? Should financial institutions shoulder the responsibility for furthering financial inclusion within their communities, or is this the Government’s prerogative?