Opening Remarks by Deputy Managing Director Okamura: Panel Discussion on Financial Inclusion

March 10, 2023

As Prepared for Delivery


Good morning. It is a pleasure to welcome you to this event. 

I am honored to be here today. This is my first visit to Mauritania, and I am impressed by what I have learnt so far about proposed reforms to overcome the economic challenges you face.

These challenges make a new IMF book about inclusive growth particularly relevant for Mauritania. It is part of our analytical work and outreach leading up to the 2023 IMF and World Bank Annual Meetings in Marrakech that will mark our ongoing partnerships in Africa and the Middle East.

These meetings have been postponed twice, due to the pandemic. When we meet in October (inshAllah!), it will be under very different circumstances than we had previously envisaged.

Just as the global economy was bouncing back from the depths of the pandemic-induced crisis, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine brought new challenges and sent economic shockwaves around the world.

Global growth has weakened, and rapidly rising commodity prices have fueled inflation worldwide. Higher prices for basic food items and supply constraints have especially hurt low-income households and jeopardized food security in many places. Tighter global financial conditions are putting pressure on heavily indebted countries. Over the longer term, geo-economic fragmentation could jeopardize decades of progress, especially in emerging market and low-income countries.

Weathering these shocks – and building a more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable future – requires structural change in our economies. We need a “transformational” recovery.

This is especially true for the Middle East and North Africa. Ten years after the Arab Uprisings, ensuring greater and fairer opportunities for all—in particular, young people, women, and entrepreneurs—remains a key priority for the region. New global challenges from the pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine should not derail regional efforts toward a more inclusive development model. In fact, countries must remain even more committed to reforms that will yield more resilient economies, while creating opportunities for all.

Here, the new book could help. Leveraging recent IMF research to assess various policy approaches: from reducing gender inequalities, improving access to social protection systems and financial services, to adapting to climate change and developing greener economies, fostering new economic opportunities for the private sector, and harnessing the benefits of fast-paced transformations in the nature of work.

Chapter 7—the topic of today’s discussion—is on financial inclusion: a key policy priority in many countries seeking to create jobs and enjoy stronger and more inclusive growth.

Here in Mauritania, for example, the government is developing a financial inclusion strategy that aims to boost access for the poorest and for women. I look forward to hearing from the panelists on how this can be best achieved.

Let me end with a message to the students in the room today.

You represent the future of this country, and you will play a critical role in confronting tomorrow’s challenges. Together, we can continue to improve living standards and work toward a more equal and inclusive future.

Thank you. 
IMF Communications Department


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