H.M. Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA), provided this pre-recorded video address for the Egypt International Cooperation Forum / African Ministers of Finance, Economy, and Environment Meeting for COP 27 on 9 September 2022. Click here to watch.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am thrilled to join the Egypt International Cooperation Forum, which offers an important platform to advance sustainable development in Africa.
Especially now, as we witness the dire consequences of climate change.
Income loss. Food insecurity. And increased forced migration, to name a few.
Climate change will be the most disruptive force to impact low-income households, women, and small businesses for decades to come.
Add to this the knock-on effects of global conflict and soaring inflation, and it is clear that the world needs new solutions to help the most vulnerable build resilience.
The financial sector is on the front line of this challenge.
It plays a key role in managing environmental and social risks posed by climate change. It also fuels fresh opportunities to transition towards climate-smart economies.
In the last decade, 33 countries have launched over 200 national policies to support sustainable finance. Egypt has made important strides in this direction, issuing its guiding principles in 2021.
Globally, green bond issuances now top $1.3 trillion.
However, this is just a sliver of the story.
It is at the micro level — of underserved households and small businesses — where people face the greatest risks.
Over 495 million adults in Sub-Saharan Africa still have no access to formal financial services.
In many African markets, financial inclusion is lowest where climate risks are the highest.
Without quality payments, credit, savings, and insurance products, people have fewer tools to keep their lives on track after weather shocks or natural disasters.
Technology is a big part of the solution. It can expand access to finance across hard-to-reach markets that are prone to climate change. It can also bypass traditional geographic and cultural barriers that prevent women from accessing quality financial services.
For instance, an impact study found that after a rainfall shock in Tanzania, only mobile money users avoided a drop in their consumption. This is because villagers with access to mobile money could quickly receive additional remittances for support, helping to replace two-thirds of the losses that they incurred from the shock.
Equally, financial inclusion fuels opportunities to participate in the green economy.
Sun Culture, an irrigation equipment supplier in Kenya using an innovative model, allows farmers to increase their revenue despite harsh climatic conditions, while mitigating over 20,000 tons of CO2 annually.
As we look towards COP-27, I would like to suggest a call to action.
A collective effort — that is gender inclusive — is needed to make African economies resilient to climate change, providing solutions that safeguard its vast natural resources and empower its young population.
Financial inclusion can be a big part of this journey.
However, to get there, we need vision and common priorities.
For policymakers, this includes placing financial inclusion at the core of sustainability frameworks, ensuring households and small business have the financial tools to combat climate change.
For governments, we need investments in digital public goods. They include digital identification systems, connectivity, and interoperable payment systems. These form the rails that underpin financial inclusion but can also be designed for use beyond finance — including health, education, and climate.
For Africa’s private sector — including renewable energy companies, financial institutions, fintechs, and ag-tech firms — this means scaling up market solutions for climate-smart agriculture, green buildings, and off-grid electricity. These sectors are key to mitigating emissions and an important source of employment for young people.
I encourage all stakeholders to do more rigorous research into how households and small business can effectively adapt to climate change patterns and seize climate-smart investment opportunities. This research will help develop more programs that have impact and can scale.
Let us recognize that sustainable finance is not possible without inclusive finance.
Leadership and commitment will help us achieve both objectives, taking us to a greener, more sustainable, and more resilient future.