The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and Reserve Bank of Fiji (RBF) have formalised their collaboration through a Memorandum of Agreement to support a number of activities outlined under the Fiji National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) 2022-2030. The partnership will specifically focus on research, policy dialogue, special projects and advisory services designed to facilitate innovative financial services for women entrepreneurs in Fiji undertaken as part of ESCAP’s Catalysing Women Entrepreneurship Programme.
For the first time, the new NFIS is harmonised with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, with a strengthened focus on vulnerable communities, women, youth, and people with disabilities. The new strategy has four thematic areas: inclusive finance, digital financial services, MSME finance, and consumer protection and financial capability.
“Through the work undertaken with this Agreement, our two agendas will unite to advance the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals with the primary focus on innovative finance for the women entrepreneurs of Fiji. Across the various workstreams under the NFIS, there is also a central recognition that women are a driving force in the entrepreneurial space and thus, the pursuit of equal access will only enhance the overall economic picture in Fiji,” said Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, Under-Secretary-General of United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP at the signing ceremony.
Ariff Ali, Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji, stated, “Collaboration is at the heart of furthering RBF’s development initiatives including advancing the national financial inclusion agenda under the new NFIS. Our partnership with United Nations ESCAP reaffirms this position as we refocus our efforts on assisting women entrepreneurs through research, dialogue, and policy actions. I wish to thank United Nations ESCAP’s leadership for this opportunity and we look forward to a successful partnership through this Agreement.”
RBF has been at the helm of Fiji’s National Financial Inclusion Taskforce (NFIT) since its inception in 2009. Over the last decade, RBF and the NFIT have seen a great expansion of financials services of all kinds across Fiji. Adult citizens with existing formal financial service accounts increased from 64 per cent to 81 per cent since robust measurement started in 2014 under the Demand-Side Survey, which was a measurement project started under the first NFIS and complemented by RBF’s collection of disaggregated supply-side data during the second NFIS.
The positive outturn is largely attributed to enhanced access to digital financial services, increased financial literacy in the general populate, and other targeted work from the NFIT, its working groups, the public and private sector and development partners. However, a gender-gap of 13 per cent remains in terms of access to bank accounts and is larger for access to formal credit. The intent is to narrow these gaps in the coming years under this partnership.