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António Guterres: Read the UN Secretary-General’s Davos speech in full

‘We are in a world in which global challenges are more and more integrated, and the responses are more and more fragmented, and if this is not reversed, it’s a recipe for disaster’
Image: World Economic Forum

Thank you very much to all of you for being here.

If I had to select one sentence to describe the state of the world, I would say we are in a world in which global challenges are more and more integrated, and the responses are more and more fragmented, and if this is not reversed, it’s a recipe for disaster.

Now, if one looks at global politics and geopolitical tensions, with the global economy, and the mega trends – climate change, the movement of people, digitalization – the truth is that they are more and more interlinked, interfering more and more with each other. And indeed the problems are global but the responses are fragmented.

Looking at the global economy – we are now growing still with a relatively acceptable GDP growth, 3.1% last year, but slowing down; and everybody agrees that there are dark clouds on the horizon, and there are risks. And if one looks at the risks, there is really an interrelation of those risks with all the other aspects of global international relations.

The first risk is probably trade tensions, and trade tensions are today essentially a political problem.

A second risk, of course, is related to the debt that is much higher than in the last financial crisis, and which is limiting the capacity to respond to any potential emerging crisis; and also, limiting the capacity of states to implement the projects that would be necessary to achieve the sustainable development goals. But in any case, it remains essentially an economic dimension of the problem.

Then we have the instability in financial markets, and clearly it’s a matter of confidence, so political events have an influence on that; and if one looks at the shutdowns and the Brexit saga, there is a certain sense that political systems do not know exactly what to do when dealing with problems that have strong economic impacts. And so that is a factor of lack of confidence and a factor of lack of confidence creates or increases instability in the markets.

And then the climate risk, and I think the climate risk is the most important systemic risk for the near future. I believe we are losing the race. Climate change is running faster than we are. And we have this paradox: the reality is proving to be worse than scientists had foreseen, and all the last indicators show that. We are moving dramatically into a runaway climate change if we are not able to stop it, and at the same time, I see the political will slowing down. This when technology is on our side and we see, more and more, the business community ready to respond in a positive way, and the civil society more and more engaged. But the political will is still very slow, and we see lots of subsidies to fossil fuels, we see carbon pricing in a very limited way, and we see many still putting into doubt whether climate change is a threat. But in my opinion, it’s the most important global systemic threat in relation to the global economy.

Then we have aspects that are more complex. It’s true that globalization, with all its fantastic improvements in the world, and the technological progress linked to it, has increased inequality at country level, especially inside countries. And there are people that were left behind – people, sectors, regions – that has created a sense of frustration in the rust belts of the world. And this has been a factor in reducing confidence – confidence, trust in governments, in political establishments, and in international organisations like ours – and this also makes it more difficult to have effective strategies in dealing with the economic problems.

And then, the fact that growth has been uneven, and that we have a number of least developed countries in which per capita growth is stagnant; this is creating development gaps that are a factor of instability and of conflict linked to other risks – violations of human rights and other aspects. And so this unevenness in growth is a factor of potential increase in conflict, and countries that are able to solve conflicts are always at risk of going back into those conflicts.

Then if you look at the political mega trends, it is clear for me that we are witnessing a multiplication of conflicts – more and more interrelated and more and more related to a threat of global terrorism – but at the same time the response is more and more fragmented.

We no longer live in a bipolar or unipolar world, but we are not yet in a multipolar world. We are in a kind of chaotic situation of transition. Polar relations have become unclear. The relationship between the three most important powers – Russia, the United States and China – has never been as dysfunctional as it is today. And this is true for the economy, but it’s also true in the paralysis of the Security Council in many very important aspects.

We see the emergence of medium-sized powers that start to be very influential in different scenarios. It’s impossible to look at what happened in Syria without recognising the role of Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia. We can do the same in other conflicts around the world.

So power relations are becoming unclear. Fragmentation of actions. Impunity and unpredictability prevailing. And when you say – and you said and it’s right – that we are probably moving into a multipolar world, multipolarity might be a factor of equilibrium but it’s not necessarily a factor of peace and security. We had a multipolar Europe before the First World War, but in the absence of multilateral mechanisms of cooperation and governance we had the First World War. So it is very important to recognise the importance of multilateral mechanisms.

And if I could go with the mega trends that I mentioned – climate change, the movement of people – that today become a political problem, or the questions related to the utilisation, we would see in all of them more and more linkage within politics, economy, technology, movement; all these situations more and more interlinked, and then an enormous difficulty of the international community at the country level and at the global level to respond in a global way.

And this brings us to the centre of the debate today. I am a multilateralist. I am deeply convinced that there is no other way to deal with global challenges, than with global responses, and organised in a multilateral way. But I think that it’s not enough to say this. And it’s also not enough to vilify those that disagree with this and just consider them as nationalists or populists or whatever.

I think we need to understand the grievances and to understand the reasons why – the root causes of why large sectors of the population in different parts of the world today disagree with us. And we need to address those root causes and we need to show these people that we care for them.

And the problem is that to a large extent, political establishments and international organisations, during large periods, let these people be left behind in those, as I mentioned, rust belts of this world and did not show that they cared. And people would think “Oh politicians, they just take care of their own interests and the elections and whatever, and we are here. We are abandoned, we don’t see a future, our jobs are lost, we can’t rebuild our lives. We feel insecure with everything that has happened.”

We need to be able to address the concerns of these people, to talk to them and to act in relation to them. And for that, I think we need a multilateralism that is simultaneously networked to make sure that we are able to address complex challenges – it’s very important for the world to be in close cooperation as today with the World Bank and the IMF but also with other organisations, the World Trade Organisation. We need to work together. There is no way we can do isolated responses to the problems we face. They are all interlinked and it needs to be an inclusive multilateralism. It needs to be a multilateralism in which not only states are part of the system, but in which more and more, the business community, the civil society, the academia, they are all part of the way to analyse problems, to define strategies, to define policies, and then to implement them.

There is no way governments or intergovernmental organisations alone can deal with climate change, can deal with the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution or can deal with migration. We need more and more a multilateralism that also is able to incorporate the contribution of all these other sectors, and I think the World Economic Forum has an absolutely vital role to play.

And if you ask me what the priorities are for me, for these at the present moment, I would raise three.

First, to demonstrate to all those that today are not in favour of multilateralism that we care for them. To demonstrate to all those that are feeling that they were left behind that our ideas, our policies, our programs, aim at solving their problems or helping them to solve them. And that is the reason why we try to look at the Agenda 2030 in the developing world as a new inclusive process to leave no-one behind. And there huge cooperation is necessary obviously with the business community and with member states in general and with the civil society. But clearly, to make people understand it is not an abstract debate on global development. This is something linked to the concerns that people have about the future of their jobs, about the future of their communities, and this is even more important when we know the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Second concern, to tell people clearly, look, we understand that, for you, we have problems with bureaucracy, we have problems of being too heavy. We need to reform and we are reforming. We have launched a very substantial, robust program of reform, aiming at simplification of procedures, decentralization. I just sent 200 letters to 200 managers giving them powers they never had in relation to staff management, budget, procurement and other aspects to make them take decisions closer to people we deal with. And then transparency and accountability, that is essential, to prove to taxpayers that they have value for money in what we do.

And then the third aspect that for me is a priority is to show the added value of the United Nations.

There I must say, I think we are doing things. I mean, look at December last year. We were able to bring together the international community in Katowice. Everybody thought that would be a failure. It was not. We managed to approve the world program of the Paris agreement. It doesn’t solve the problem, we need more ambition, more ambition and mitigation. That was not solved there, but it was possible to bring together countries that were in a totally different position, to at least agree on the basis to move forward.

Nobody believed that it was possible to have an agreement, a first agreement in Yemen. It was possible. It will be very difficult to move, but we are pushing for a surge in diplomacy for peace and many other situations have been improving in recent times. South Sudan is looking better. Ethiopia -that is not our merit, it is the merit of the Prime Minister – has done a fantastic step forward in relation to Eritrea.

So a surge in diplomacy for peace, I think, is something that we are proving that we are there, that we are doing things that are necessary, and that nobody can replace the UN in this work.

A second aspect that I would like to underline on this is the fact that, in the humanitarian world, the UN still represents more than half of the humanitarian aid distributed around the world. We supported last year 100 million people in 40 countries, mobilising US $15 billion. And I think that the work the UN does is absolutely irreplaceable, and looking at World Food Programme, UNICEF, UNHCR, what is happening in the world would be – the tragedy would be much bigger without this work.

So I think we have an added value that is proven but it’s clear we need to accelerate in 2019. Accelerate in relation to climate change and we will have a summit in which we want more ambition in mitigation, in adaptation, in finance, and in innovation, and to make governments understand that they are not doing enough and to mobilise as much as possible the business community and the civil society; and that accelerate in relation to the perspectives of the agenda 2030 – this is the sustainable development goals – and create the conditions to mobilise the business community, to mobilise the civil society.

Because obviously, governments cannot do it alone, and this is the central question of this inclusive multilateralism: it’s the recognition, whether people like it or not, that the power of governments to shape societies and the power of governments to solve problems is today much more limited. And if we want to have a true multilateral system, we need, of course, to have an intergovernmental perspective; but we need to make sure that we bring together into this multilateral system the voice and the influence of the business community, the civil society, the scientific community, and all those others that are essential to address together the very dramatic problems we are facing.

The UN Secretary General then took questions from World Economic Forum President, Børge Brende.

Børge Brende, President; Member of the Managing Board, World Economic Forum and Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations, New York capture during the Session

Are we living in a multipolar world?

We’re not yet there. We maybe have, like a G20 composition, we also have the three powers of Russia, China and the US. You mentioned that, but in addition to a multipolar world decreasing more and more, because we are seeing also other countries more assertive than before, and if there is a vacuum, it will try to be filled. We have this notion of multi conceptual world. And that adds to the complications, because this is also seen as asking questions around human rights and – although agreements that we have had in the UN – the rules-based world order. When you look at human rights, look at gender, and the rights of girls for education in the world – that are crucial issues – some are saying “Oh, these are western values.” But these are really universal values.

Can we do more to protect this and are you concerned that these values are under pressure?

I think it varies. But it is clear that, in general, we can say that we have witnessed – probably because governments feel weaker in relation to the solution of the problems that they face – we have witnessed in several parts of the world the national sovereignty agenda gaining ground in relation to the human rights agenda. And so it is clear that, in several parts of the world, we see the civil society space shrinking. We see media freedom being negatively impacted. And we see the expression of forms of authoritarianism or this new fantastic expression that was invented, “illiberal democracy”. This is clear. The human rights agenda is in trouble and we need to make sure that we mobilise the international community – and again the civil society has a key role to play in this – for human rights to be protected.

Now, gender is different, in the sense that in gender I think we are witnessing a gigantic movement for gender equality, coming from the rank and file, from the society. We have many governments clearly in this direction. We at the UN are totally committed. We have reached gender parity at the level of the senior management group, and of our team leaders around the world. It’s true, those are the ones I appoint directly, so it’s easier to have gender parity; but even in the system, we have now a road map to reach full gender parity in 2028, with the agreement of member states.

And I see in many other countries a lot of effort being done in relation to bringing girls to school, fighting genital mutilation, fighting early marriage. So there are a number of things that are happening. But it’s not enough. But in general, I would say, the human rights situation in general is worse than what we are seeing in gender, where I see now some progress. In some areas, we are having a regression; in other areas, we have some progress, and I hope that in gender, we are making some progress. Of course, there is a long way to go. This is a male dominated world with a male dominated culture, and this is essentially a question of power, and we know that it’s always difficult for power to be given. Normally, power has to be taken.

Secretary-General, you also mentioned the importance of collaboration between governments, business and civil society, and our partnership between the UN and the World Economic Forum here, I think, is very important, and as you said, governments cannot do things alone any more.

You have to mobilise also the private sector, it is 75% of the global GDP. So moving forward, I think collaboration with business – and you have some of the key CEOs in the world here – is crucial when it comes to fighting climate change; but also, to meet sustainable development goals, eradicate all extreme poverty by 2030, and we’re not on track on this.

So what would your challenge be to the business community, or your invitation to the business community, in the coming years?

I think we need to have action on several fronts together. I’ve been talking to many financial institutions, for instance, about the need to support investments in many developing countries, and usually the answer is related to problems of governance, and the questions of corruption and others. So that is why one of the goals is exactly related to governance, to improved governance, improved capacity of member states – especially the least developed member states – to be able to attract private investment and to be able to have normal relations with private investment in the working of their economies. So we need to act with member states to create the conditions for adequate government, for a rules-based relationship with the private sector. We need to mobilise the private sector in order to invest in those countries.

And we need – working with governments, with aid entities, and with the financial system – to find some new instruments or to increase the impact of instruments to reduce the risks of investment in many of these countries. And a lot is being done as you know in insurance, a lot has been done in relation to different forms of financing. Now we have the green bonds, we have social bonds. So a lot needs to be done to make sure that we are able to create the combination of these things. A welcoming environment in the least developed countries, a commitment of the private sector to invest, and the creation of a number of instruments to reduce the risks of that investment in order to make sure to address the huge gaps that we have in the development world in a large chunk of the least developed countries.

We have now developments in areas like artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, drones, that are happening at an unparalleled pace. And you know also the World Economic Forum works on the Fourth Industrial Revolution and this morning I was with African leaders saying that “We lost out on the first, second and the third Industrial Revolution, but we’re not planning to lose out on the fourth. We will have to leap frog.” And we also see that there is a big technological competition between the big nations and we know in a platform economy, the winner easily takes it all. How do you see the UN playing a constructive role here, that this Fourth Industrial Revolution can also be an inclusive revolution, and a revolution that gains all the population of this world?

I see three platforms of action.

First, the impact of a Fourth Industrial Revolution with artificial intelligence as probably the leading role, the impact in the economies and societies will be huge. There will be a massive destruction of jobs and a massive creation of jobs. The problem is that they are not the same jobs and not requiring the same skills. And I think that the World Economic Forum has been doing a lot to raise awareness and to find solutions, but let’s be clear: we need to mobilise much more governments and the business community and the civil society to understand what kind of impact are we going to have in the next decade and what kind of measures do we need to start taking now in order to respond to it? Educational systems – it doesn’t really matter now how much you learn, how many things you learn. What matters is how you learn to learn. Because you will be doing completely different things in your life. The question of safety nets – a new generation of safety nets. So there is a lot that I believe the UN can be a platform for discussion, with the business community and governments, within the sustainable development goals discussion, in order to try to address the massive impact that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will have on societies and economies; and to try to prevent instead of react. And then, of course, the concept of work will change. The relation between work time, leisure, other occupations, will change. These are things we need to discuss much more in the international community and prepare for what’s coming.

Then there is a second level, in which we are now very much engaged with the high-level panel on digital cooperation. When I look at the web, it’s clear that the web is a fantastic instrument for all of us. It’s clear that we have the dark web and the deep web and all the problems of cybersecurity, etc. And the question of regulation is a very complex question in relation to this. My feeling is that there is no way to use the traditional mechanisms of intergovernmental regulations through conventions that are approved and then agencies that – no. I think that this is the kind of situation in which we need soft mechanisms. We need to bring together all stakeholders – governments, the business community, the scientific community, the civil society – and create mechanisms that allow for a permanent following of what’s happening; for the consensus in creating some norms, some protocol, but not with rigid forms of bureaucracy of regulation; and creating with this the potential more and more for the web to be an instrument for good, and at the same time taking into account that the web is also a question that some governments are using from the point of view of violation of human rights, etc. So it is clear to me this cannot be only an intergovernmental process.

And then I think we have a third area of great interest for us, which is linked with dimensions of security of artificial intelligence: the weaponization of artificial intelligence. We have an agreement, for instance, today, a general agreement that the international law applies to cyberspace. But there is no agreement on how international humanitarian law applies to the cyber dimension of conflicts. There is no agreement with what self-defence means in the case of cyber attacks. And on the other hand, we are witnessing the emergence of systems of weapons that will be autonomous, and in which it will possible for those weapons to decide on targets and to decide on taking the life of people, without any human intervention, in situations in which there is a risk of escalation and there is no accountability. Now how to handle these situations, this discussion is a discussion in which they are in the beginning; in which there are big differences of opinion; but these are the areas where we still need international law, and in a way the role of the United Nations and namely the second commission of the General Assembly is vital. We need to find a minimum of consensus in the world on how to integrate these new technologies in the laws of war that were defined decades ago in a completely different context.

Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations, New York capture during the Session

But if you look at the coming year, what are your aspirations?

There is a wind of hope that is blowing – and I think Ethiopia was crucial for this wind of hope – that is blowing in relation to the dramatic conflict situation we have in many parts of the world. And my intention is to intensify our surge in diplomacy for peace, and to enhance our partnerships with regional organisations. It is the case of the African Union, it is the case of regional Africa, it’s the case of other parts of the world. And to do everything possible to bring a number of situations in which, until now, it was not possible to launch a serious political process, to bring those situations into a serious political process. Countries like Central African Republic, South Sudan, countries like Yemen, Libya, Syria with all its complexities, are countries where we would like to make huge progress next year.

And then we have situations in which what I was saying about how everything is interlinked, are clear – that they require innovative forms of handling them. In the Sahel, you have conflict, you have terrorism, you have climate change impacting dramatically, you have huge problems of lack of development, and you have problems of governance that are very serious. So it’s a whole area in which all these mega problems are combined. That is why we need this kind of multilateralism that is networking to address everything at the same time, and inclusive. Because this is the kind of area that proves that the systems that we have, that still are fragmented and not able to respond to the kind of problems that more and more we are having in the future, in which everything is interconnected, and all answers need to be comprehensive.


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Embracing new technologies defines a company’s competitiveness on the market today, its efficient operation and its future development. As businesses go remote, many of them transfer their valuable data to the cloud – experts predict up to 60% will be using external provider services by 2022. This allows companies to tune internal communications, process and store larger amounts of data and deliver more value to customers.

The Digital Transformation Officer (DTO) plays the key role in managing the strategic approach necessary to successfully undertake such transformations. Part of that success means managing cyber-risk. In fact, the World Economic Forum, in its guidance to boards of directors, recommends that organizational design supports cybersecurity. The DTO has significant responsibility in making sure this important obligation is met.

Among IT initiatives worldwide, digital transformation is a leading priority.
Among IT initiatives worldwide, digital transformation is a leading priority.
Image: Statista

Investments in digital transformation are projected to reach $1.78 trillion in 2022. In this regard, the DTO plays the key role – their task is to drive the company’s digital transformation by ensuring seamless integration of novel technologies into business operations. This mission is complex and does not only mean introducing new software and hardware. It is about full revision of internal and external processes, training of staff, and, perhaps most crucially, implementing new approaches to security.

The need for the effective cybersecurity is growing in parallel with the increasing digitalization of work processes. Over the past two years, many industries have seen a substantial rise in security incidents.

Cyberattacks are rising across multiple sectors worldwide.
Cyberattacks are rising across multiple sectors worldwide.
Image: ENISA


Unless a DTO pays sufficient attention to security, one incident may disrupt the whole strategy of a company’s transformation and future development, bringing enormous financial and reputational damage. For example, in 2021 the average cost of a data breach has risen to $4.24 million, the highest in the past 17 years.

The main challenge for a DTO is not only to take a company to new heights through digital transformation, but to ensure that transformation is sustainable. This means she or he must ensure continuity of the company’s processes and not let a single cyberattack disrupt operations. With that in mind, cybersecurity becomes an integral part of every digital transformation strategy.

We recommend DTOs consider the following trends:

1. Securing digital assets

Moving to remote work revealed a lot of challenges and new risks – one in five companies were not ready to ensure stable business processes in case of failures in their IT infrastructure. To stay on the safe side, a DTO should manage a detailed inventory of digital assets. This will point out the most important resources that require protection in the first place, be they data, network repositories or workplaces; it may also reveal a wide range of unaccounted assets that could appear during digitalization. BI.ZONE research shows that 60% of data leaks and 85% of network compromises are linked with such assets. These incidents may disrupt the company’s daily operations. To avoid that, the digital assets need to be accounted and secure.

2. Cloud security

Moving to cloud offers companies significant flexibility as well as potential security benefits. Still, there are certain challenges, most commonly when a company becomes dependent on only one cloud service provider, e.g. due to specific data storage formats. In the event of vendor lock-out – if the service provider goes bankrupt, leaves the market, or suffers a cybersecurity incident itself – all the company systems in the cloud will be unavailable. In light of these challenges, the DTO needs to have a deep understanding of how their company is using and securing the cloud. It is important to learn in advance what solutions and formats are utilized by the supplier, as well as their compatibility with formats by other vendors, and to assess the cybersecurity level of this supplier. A DTO can arrange this internally or hire third-party IT experts for help.

3. Developing skills to operate novel technologies securely

Recognizing the human factor in digital transformation may offer significant benefits. Digital transformation requires new skills both from technical and non-technical specialists. Human mistakes and lack of knowledge often lead to cyber-incidents, notwithstanding a company’s investments into expensive security means. BI.ZONE research shows 80% of successful cyberattacks utilize social engineering methods. Therefore, a DTO can reduce the risks of incidents by promoting regular trainings for every employee and top management on how to work safely in the new digital reality.

4. New approaches to cyber-incident management

If any crisis strikes, the company should be ready at all levels to keep the operations going. A DTO should work closely with the company’s Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) to improve and regularly update business continuity and incident response plans, and to promote regular crisis-management trainings for all company members, including the board. Also, it is important for a DTO to be aware of the latest trends, and to test and introduce new methods of incident management. For example, there are managed detection and response services that foresee proactive approach to threats, or threat intelligence for building better security. Smooth introduction of these approaches may require specific experience and supervision of experts.

5. Outsourcing cybersecurity tasks

As digital transformation is an ongoing process, these tasks are complex, require substantial investments and may turn out rather difficult for a company to deal with. Besides, businesses are facing a deficit of qualified personnel – the global shortage for cybersecurity specialists has hit 3 million. Today there are expert organizations that help companies to go through digital transformation securely. They possess the required experience and capacities, the expensive equipment and software, and are aware of the tendencies within the field. They can also help to address cybersecurity issues and avoid common mistakes.

Digital transformation is a challenging but manageable task. It is important for a DTO to work as a team with the CISO, senior leadership, and the board and to stay tuned with the rapid changes in business and technologies. Addressing all the elements in a cross-functional way and prioritizing cybersecurity will facilitate secure digital transformation and ensure your company’s stable development for years to come.

Embracing new technologies defines a company’s competitiveness on the market today, its efficient operation and its future development. As businesses go remote, many of them transfer their valuable data to the cloud – experts predict...


Providing everyone with a transaction account to send and receive money electronically is widely considered the first step towards financial inclusion. For the unbanked, such accounts are seen as the gateway to savings, credit, insurance and a host of other financial activities and services.

Ongoing advances in financial technology (fintech) have introduced new ways to expand access to financial services and the range of services on offer, both for experienced customers and for unbanked people gaining access to transaction accounts for the first time.

Alongside the traditional offerings, some banks have moved to support “open banking” in coordination with third-party online service providers.

Innovations in fields like big data analytics, digital identity and biometrics have ushered in new ways to assess creditworthiness and onboard new customers.

With transaction accounts now offered not just by banks, but also increasingly via mobile money providers and other non-bank platforms, a wide range of players can be involved in enabling payments.

For financial regulators, this raises a range of questions, with the imperative to spur fintech innovation being balanced against the responsibility to manage risks.

Guiding principles

Guiding principles for Payment Aspects of Financial Inclusion (PAFI), released in 2016 and updated in 2020, rest on public and private-sector commitments to provide everyone with access to a transaction account, a suitable supporting legal and regulatory framework, and the necessary financial and digital infrastructure.

Fintech’s rapid rise to prominence in recent years has led to further review of PAFI principles, again led by the World Bank Group and the Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures (CPMI) of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). This time, the institutions focused on detailing how the PAFI principles apply to the latest fintech innovations.

The latest report notes fintech’s potential to broaden financial inclusion through initiatives embedded in wider country-level reforms.

Inclusive payment systems depend on close coordination between regulatory authorities and industry players, both to harmonize oversight and establish resilient infrastructure for electronic payments.

The right balance is needed between increasing efficiency and ensuring safety, as well as between enhancing the customer experience and protecting personal data.

The movement towards increasingly digital financial life, industry experts caution, may deepen exclusion for some.

Striking the balance

Source: Bank for International Settlements and World Bank Group (2020): Payment aspects of financial inclusion in the fintech era.

Tracking financial inclusion

To help national authorities apply PAFI guidance, the project provides guidance for diagnostic studies to track transaction account access and use. The toolkit allows comparisons against international benchmarks or within each jurisdiction over time as countries strive for more inclusive payment systems.

Morocco’s inclusion strategy

The PAFI toolkit forms part of a country-level self-assessment for Morocco’s financial sector, says Hakima El Alami, Director of Payment Systems and Instruments Oversight and Financial Inclusion Directorate at Bank Al-Maghrib, the country’s central bank.

Morocco is making fintech solutions part of its national Financial Inclusion Strategy — which aims to give all citizens and businesses fair access to formal financial products and services, she said during the recent Financial Inclusion Global Initiative (FIGI) Symposium.

Albania builds trust

Market access for new entrants also requires careful consideration, so that entities of all sizes enjoy equal opportunities for competition.

“From our perspective as a regulator, we need the market to have as many alternatives as possible, and this comes into force only with tools like a framework, infrastructure, and giving access in a secure and mitigated way,” said Ledia Bregu, Director of Payments in the Bank of Albania’s Accounting and Finance Department.

Bregu cited financial literacy as a key challenge, along with building customer confidence.

“When we speak about innovation and fintech, we need to build trust, so the new or unbanked part of the population has the same understanding and the same trust to use innovative tools to become more financially included.”

Financial inclusion can drive investment and economic development — important considerations for Albania and other relatively small economies in the Western Balkans, she adds. “At the end of the day we see it as a tool for economic growth,” says Bregu.

Mexico seeks network effects

Exponential tech growth means not only new services, but also new types of firms providing services, says Miguel Manuel Díaz, Director of Payment Systems and Infrastructure at Banxico.

This, he believes, has ramped up the pressure on central banks and other regulators.

According to Díaz, five key balances need to be maintained by authorities working to accommodate new types of industry players and services:

  1. Innovation versus risk mitigation;
  2. Economies of scale versus competition;
  3. Efficiency versus system security;
  4. Achieving diversity versus efficient system standardization; and
  5. Privacy versus security requirements.

Díaz sees two key tools to expand access to payment services while mitigating associated risks:

First, a central enabling infrastructure available to everyone. This supports competition among payment services and introduces network effects that help services reach as many people as possible.

Second, in-depth analysis to ensure the consistency of regulations with new market realities. For example, regulators may consider shifting from overseeing different types of institutions towards overseeing the different functions involved in providing a service.

South Africa recognizes limits of current regulation

While financial inclusion is a high priority today, this was not always the case in South Africa, says Pearl Malumane, Senior Analyst in the Policy and Regulation Division at the South African Reserve Bank.

“Over the years, the focus has always been on financial stability, but other regulators and also the South African Reserve Bank have come to realize the importance of financial inclusion,” she says.

“As a result, we have seen the growth of fintechs in South Africa, but we are aware that there are limits in our current regulatory framework. It is very restrictive in terms of what type of payment activities fintechs, or non-banks, are allowed to do.”

But the industry and its regulators need to persist in finding the right way forward, Malumane says. “Where fintech is enabled, it will enhance not only financial inclusion but also competition and innovation in the national payment system and throughout the country,” she says.

Note: This article is based on a panel discussion during the 2021 Financial Inclusion Global Initiative (FIGI) Symposium.
Play the session recording.

Providing everyone with a transaction account to send and receive money electronically is widely considered the first step towards financial inclusion. For the unbanked, such accounts are seen as the gateway to savings, credit, insurance...


“Digital Jobs Albania” is a new World Bank initiative that will help women in Albania gain better access to online work opportunities and connect with the global economy. The initiative will provide intensive 3-month training in digital skills for women aged 16-35 years, empowering them to access online freelancer job opportunities in graphic design, web development and digital marketing.

The emergence of online freelancer job markets is creating new opportunities for Albanians to connect with the global economy. Websites such as Upwork, Fiverr and People Per Hour allow Albanians with the right skills to access online project work commissioned by companies and individuals anywhere in the world, while staying in their local communities.

Women in particular stand to gain. The female labor force participation in Albania is still 14.6 percentage points lower than for males. The gender pay gap remains 6.6 percent, according to 2020 data from the Albanian National Statistical Authority (INSTAT). The emerging online freelancing work model can play an important role in narrowing these gaps. Flexible work hours and the ability to work from home can help more women with the right skills stay in the labor market and gain financial independence.

The Digital Jobs Albania initiative, implemented in partnership with the Government of Albania, Coderstrust (an international digital skills training provider), and EuroPartners Development (a local consulting company), will provide an online training program to equip selected participants with in-demand technical skills. It will also provide mentorship to participants and help them develop the soft skills needed to successfully compete for project work on online freelancer websites.

“This initiative offers an exciting new opportunity for Albanian women to acquire digital skills and join the online economy – a blueprint to inspire future projects in this space,” says Emanuel Salinas, World Bank Country Manager for Albania. “No one can afford to be left behind in the ongoing digital transformation.”

The initiative is part of broader ongoing World Bank engagement in Albania to help the country leverage the economic opportunities associated with digital trade in goods and services.

“Albania has recognized the importance of digital markets as an opportunity for economic development. We have mobilized a team from across the World Bank to support this effort, through this new initiative and others in the future,” says Christoph Ungerer, the World Bank task team leader for the Albania Digital Trade Project.

To learn more about the Digital Jobs Albania initiative and how to participate in it, please visit: https://www.digitaljobsalbania.com/

“Digital Jobs Albania” is a new World Bank initiative that will help women in Albania gain better access to online work opportunities and connect with the global economy. The initiative will provide intensive 3-month training...


The funds will support activities that can enable more countries to engage in and benefit from the evolving digital economy.


Switzerland has announced a contribution of $4.4 million (4 million Swiss francs) to UNCTAD’s e-commerce and digital economy programme.

The funds to be provided through the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) will support the programme’s technical cooperation, research and consensus-building activities until 2024.

UNCTAD and Switzerland signed an agreement on 13 September.

“We sincerely thank Switzerland for the generous contribution,” said Isabelle Durant, deputy secretary-general of UNCTAD. “The financial support will enable us to scale up our efforts to foster more inclusive and sustainable development gains from e-commerce and the digital economy for people and businesses in developing countries.”

“Switzerland is proud to contribute to UNCTAD’s programme on e-commerce, which supports the establishment of favourable framework conditions for e-commerce in developing and least developed countries,” said Didier Chambovey, ambassador of the Swiss Permanent Mission to the World Trade Organization and the European Free Trade Association.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic revealed, a robust e-commerce ecosystem is needed to maintain trade flows and mitigate economic and social consequences in times of crisis, particularly in the most vulnerable countries.”

Spreading the benefits of the digital economy

The UNCTAD programme aims to reduce inequality, enable the benefits of digitalization to reach all people and ensure that no one is left behind in the evolving digital economy.

Its activities include, among others, the biennial Digital Economy Report, the eCommerce Week, eTrade for alleTrade for Women and eTrade readiness assessments.

The Swiss contribution will boost the programme’s ability to respond to the growing demand from countries for UNCTAD’s support, not least in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has accentuated the need to support countries with the lowest levels of readiness to take advantage of the opportunities and mitigate the risks presented by digitalization.

Committed to digitalization

The contribution demonstrates Switzerland’s commitment to strengthening its support to digitalization in line with its International Cooperation Strategy for 2021-24 and its Digital Foreign Policy Strategy 2021-2024, both of which recognize the role of digitalization in meeting current and future development challenges.

The contribution will finance at least three eTrade readiness assessments, which will provide a diagnostic of the state of e-commerce in the countries concerned, covering seven policy areas considered most relevant for e-commerce development. It will also build on a close collaboration with selected eTrade for all partners.

In 2020, Switzerland topped UNCTAD’s Business-to-Consumer E-commerce Index, which ranks 152 countries on their readiness to engage in electronic commerce.

It scored highly across all four dimensions of the index, with 97% of the population using the internet (2019) and 98% of the population aged 15 and older having a bank account (2017).

It also ranked 7th in the world in terms of postal reliability according to the Universal Postal Union, and 5th among the countries included in the index for secure server density, a proxy for online stores.

The funds will support activities that can enable more countries to engage in and benefit from the evolving digital economy.


Switzerland has announced a contribution of $4.4 million (4 million Swiss francs) to UNCTAD’s <a href="https://unctad.org/topic/ecommerce-and-digital-economy" target="_blank"...

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