Pioneering Prosperity: Fostering Inclusive Financial Futures for all Samoans

Zeituna Mustafa Abdi
Country Coordinator – Samoa
[email protected]
Lanna Lome-Leremia
Manager, Financial System Development
Central Bank of Samoa

Samoa is about to enter a new era of financial inclusion; one, it is envisioned, that will lead to a better quality of life for everyday Samoans and contribute to economic growth in the country. On November 14, the Central Bank of Samoa, and the UN Capital Development Fund, unveiled the second iteration of the country’s National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS 2.0) covering 2023/2023-2025/2026. This marked a pivotal moment for Samoa’s financial landscape given its strong focus on equitable and inclusive access to financial services for all Samoans, not just the urbanites. Digital technology, support for Micro, Small and Medium enterprises (MSMEs) and reaching those with limited or no access to financial services are big themes in NFIS 2.0.


With a vision to build an inclusive and resilient financial sector, the strategy aims to empower every Samoan, individuals and businesses, with access to affordable, convenient, and responsible financial products and services. For the first time, the NFIS 2.0 defines financial inclusion as all Samoans irrespective of their status [1] having equal and universal access to appropriate, useful, convenient, affordable, and quality financial products and services [2], which they can use regularly to meet their life cycle needs based on informed choices.


The strategy encompasses two overarching goals: firstly, to increase the number of previously excluded adults that access, and use formal financial services, such as bank accounts, by 40,000 by 2025/2026 and secondly, to have at least 50% of that number be women. According to the recently launched digital and financial baseline survey done in Samoa “three in ten Samoans overall (31%) do not have a bank account, electronic payment card, or digital financial service they can use to store money or make payments”.


At the launch of NFIS 2.0 government leaders and key stakeholders expressed their commitment to fostering economic growth by improving the quality of life for all Samoans.


The Governor of the Central Bank of Samoa, Maiava Atalina Ainuu Enari, in her opening remarks recognised that “the launch of strategy represents a significant milestone in Samoa’s journey towards inclusive economic growth and empowerment.”


Recognising the potential benefits of financial inclusion for Samoa’s people and economy, the Central Bank of Samoa has championed this agenda and will lead the implementation of the strategy, with support from UNCDF. “Our shared mission, embodied in the phrase ‘fostering a sound and vibrant financial system for Samoa’s economic development’ has propelled us to develop and refine strategies that align with the needs and aspirations of our nation,” Governor Enari said.


The Minister of Finance,Lautimuia Afoa Uelese Vaai, in his keynote address reiterated the importance of a robust financial landscape. “As Samoa continues to thrive and diversify its economy, the need for responsive and responsible financial services becomes increasingly apparent,” Mr Vaai said “However, it is equally important for our citizens to embrace their roles as responsible economic actors.”


He commended the Central Bank of Samoa for their commitment and expertise in developing the NFIS 2.0, a comprehensive roadmap to achieving financial inclusion in the country, which aligns with the Pathway for the Development of Samoa 2021/2022-2025/2026 and the Finance Sector Plan 2022/2023-2026/2027. He acknowledged and thanked the UNCDF’s Pacific Digital Economy Programme (PDEP) and Digital Finance for Resilience Programme (DFS4Res) for their invaluable support, technical guidance, and partnership throughout this journey.


PDEP is supported by the Government of Australia and New Zealand and the European Union. DFS4Res receives support from the EU and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS).


At the heart of NFIS 2.0 are five strategic pillars, each a cornerstone in building Samoa’s financial future. The first three pillars reflect on technology as highlighted below:

  1. Client-Centric Products and Services: The strategy envisions those tailor-made financial solutions like digitally enabled micro-savings and micro credit, which is readily available in the country, ensuring that every Samoan, regardless of economic status, can make informed financial choices in their daily lives.
  2. Accessible Delivery Channels: The emphasis on accessible channels recognises the need for financial services to reach even the most remote corners of Samoa. For any real improvement to occur in the overall financial inclusion situation, bridging the rural-urban gap will be a crucial endeavour.
  3. Vibrant Digital Financial Services Ecosystem: NFIS 2.0 embraces the digital era, envisioning a vibrant ecosystem that leverages technology to bring financial services to the fingertips of every Samoan by reaching the last mile. The fourth and fifth pillars highlights priority segments as highlighted below:
  4. Improved Access to Finance for MSMEs, Informal, and Agriculture Sectors: The strategy aims to boost support for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), the informal sector, and agriculture, ensuring their financial well-being. MSMEs are identified as the backbone of the national economy in the strategy.
  5. Financial Capability and Consumer Protection: NFIS 2.0 does not just stop at access; it promotes financial literacy and consumer protection, so that Samoans may navigate the financial landscape with confidence and a peace of mind.

What’s next for the strategy?

UNCDF’s Pacific Digital Economy Programme, will be a key player working alongside the central bank to achieve NFIS 2.0’s goals and M&E framework. The governance, management, and implementation plan of NFIS 2 involves a three-tier structure: 1) National Financial Inclusion Council, 2) National Financial Inclusion Task Force (NFIT), and 3) Technical Working Groups. These Technical Working Groups, consisting of private, public, and development partners, will drive activities in their respective domains to implement the strategy and its indicators. As Samoa embarks on a new financial inclusion journey, the immediate next steps involve a collaborative effort to implement this living document which requires financial commitment and coordination.


Acknowledging the crucial role of donor support, NFIS 2.0 stands on the shoulders of those who believe in Samoa’s economic potential. Existing support is invaluable, yet there are opportunities for additional collaboration and investment from development partners. Donors can play a pivotal role in ensuring the strategy’s success, particularly in areas that require additional resources for effective execution.


In conclusion, Samoa’s Financial Revolution 2.0 is not just a strategy; it’s a testament to the nation’s commitment to inclusive and sustainable development. As the waves of change sweep across Samoa, the financial inclusion practitioners and donors are not just spectators; they are partners in shaping a brighter future for the Pacific nation and her people.


[1] Referring to location, age, gender, economic profile, people with disabilities etc

[2] Financial Services refers to payments, savings, credit, insurance, pension, remittances, investments etc.


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