The World Bank (pictured above) – not quite the UN building, but striking nonetheless, and home to some of the 15,000 staff that work at the World Bank group. This is where we spent three days trying to collar people coming in and out of meetings and convince them that linking savings groups to banks is good for governments, individuals and business.
A constant theme in the side-events: the economists seem to finally recognise that growth doesn’t always lead to jobs and poverty reduction…
Christine Lagard and World Bank president Jim Kim host a town-hall meeting for civil society. Lagard says redistributive policies can be good for growth and that women’s access to finance is key. I’m just plucking up courage to ask more about financial inclusion when someone beat me to it...
Lagard replies that the IMF strongly supports the Maya Declaration and notes that the Latin countries are making headway. Jim Kim comments that he has established a ‘war room’ to track his WB target to ensure universal access to financial services by 2020. He mentions the importance of savings (big tick). He notes that market forces are aligned to achieve this ambition – but we still have a heck of a lot to do. (Linking for Change Savings Charter, Mr Kim?!)
Nigerian finance Minister Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala joins Central Bankers from Tanzania and South Africa and the Director of ‘The Growth Dialogue’ to discuss how to share growth more broadly. Okonjo-Iweala talks up the need for south-to-south trade given the recession in the West and advocates for conditional cash transfers to reduce inequality. This lady oozes a sense of leadership. I manage to get a card in her hand as she exits and she agrees to discuss the Charter in future.
Off to USAID (in the slightly ironically named Reagan building) to meet their Digital Finance advisors and discuss the Charter. They are interested in how technology might help us to link more informal groups to formal finance – something we also discuss at length with Mastercard WorldWide, who are seeking cashless solutions to development.
We also have one-to-one meetings with CGAP, the World bank’s financial inclusion hub, who are keen on the Charter principles and have some great research coming out soon, looking at client-centred products. We also meet another World Bank group member, the IFC. If they support the charter they could promote the principles to the 800+ financial institutions they work with. This is the kind of result we are after.
Reception time at the British Residency in Washington. Justine Greening and Jim Kim speak about the value of business engaging in development. Then Antony Jenkins, CEO of Barclays, talks specifics – why Barclays supported the Banking on Change partnership with CARE and Plan, what the Charter is all about, and why others should get involved. Guests in the room include foreign dignitaries, journalists and British business. They are also force-fed the new Banking on Change film which is shown on a loop all evening.
Final day. I hear another feisty African finance Minster – this time from Uganda – Maria Kiwanuka. She is talking about financing the next set of MDGs and how Uganda is seeking to increase domestic resource mobilisation through better tax collection. Uganda is also taking financial inclusion seriously and we are hopeful that they might be the first state to sign the Charter. We will be discussing their potential support at the next working group meeting with the ministry of microfinance later this month.
Leaving Washington I spot a CARE advert at a bus stop with the slogan ‘Your CARE package gives women a voice’. The women I’ve heard this week certainly had a voice – no mean feat in a world (finance and banking) still dominated by men in suits. And there was some focus on the needs of those living on less than $2 a day (even if you can’t help but wince at the scale and cost of these global events). The one-to-one meetings we have had this week confirm that support for the Charter is growing and there are multiple channels for follow-up. Keep watching this space.