CFI has begun the new year with many developments and shifts in our agenda. We have been working hard behind the scenes to position our strategy where inclusive finance can have an important role on issues that are most pressing for the lives of the poor. As we have been undertaking this strategy refresh – looking both internally and externally to identify what is critical for the inclusive finance field – we have identified several important areas of focus. At this juncture, we would like to share how our thinking is evolving with regard to our role and future focus priorities.

First, we want to use this opportunity to relay our continued commitment to improved consumer protections for people at the base of the pyramid.

CFI has been supporting the Smart Campaign for more than 10 years. This initiative has had many achievements, most notably, its role in defining a set of standards, the Client Protection Principles, which guide how providers adapt their internal practices and how regulators should think about consumer protection regulation and the tools they use to monitor market conduct. We expect to continue to evolve CFI’s work on consumer protection by expanding our research and analysis of how the digital economy is presenting new risks for consumers. We also plan on expanding our work with regulators on both regulation and market conduct.

We anticipate Smart Campaign’s role will be that of an industry initiative: it will continue to be supported by the many actors that are part of that community. CFI’s role in the Campaign will be discussed in an upcoming steering committee meeting and will align with CFI’s broader strategic shifts.

Second, we want to double-down on our advocacy role in protecting and empowering customers.

We believe there are few organizations in the inclusive finance field that truly prioritize the customer voice and perspectives. Our role is doing just that. Over the years we have used many tools to listen to customers and have used these listening exercises to inform our policy recommendations and our consumer protection standards, and we want to continue to do this. In 2019, we published the Client Voice Rwanda which used surveys and focus groups to better understand Rwandans experiences with mobile money, and our ongoing work in Cambodia is testing IVR technology as a means of collecting client feedback. And we have tested many ways to share information with customers to improve their ability to make informed decisions. In the past year, we ran consumer awareness campaigns in Ghana, Benin, and Uganda using different engagement techniques, such as social media videos, radio dramas and interviews, and journalist competitions, to inform consumers about their rights and responsibilities when accessing financial services.

Third, we want to elevate the work that will be most impactful on the poor: financial services that help the poor deal with and adapt to climate change, gender inequality, and data opportunities and risks.

This shift does not mean we stop working with providers or on important market infrastructure issues. It means that given resource limitations, each institution that is focusing on inclusive finance needs to ensure that its focus areas have a direct line of sight on how this work will lead to improved outcomes for the poor. For CFI, we have identified three key areas of focus that we will add to our agenda to help us have a more impactful influence toward improved customer outcomes. These areas are doing additional research on how financial services can both reduce risks and help customers adapt to the reality of climate change, doing additional research and experimentation on how to address the remaining policy and norms barriers that impede progress on women’s participation in the formal financial system, and better understanding the risks and opportunities that the new digital economy and the use of data pose for customers and identifying innovative solutions for managing those risks through regulation, data practices by providers, and industry wide solutions.

Finally, we want to refine our influence model to improve our impact.

As an independent global think tank housed at Accion, we know we must continue to partner to have leverage. We want to continue to build partnerships with like-minded organizations to test new ideas, conduct research, share and advocate. As in the past, we strongly believe that collaboration is the key to improving our impact, and we will continue to work together to scale our learnings.

After a few months on the job, I am excited to see the opportunities that lay ahead for CFI and for the inclusive finance field and hope that you will be a part of this journey.


Mayada El-Zoghbi

Former Managing Director

A veteran and leader in financial inclusion, Mayada El-Zoghbi served as CFI’s Managing Director from September 2019 – May 2023. Mayada also worked as Lead for Strategy, Research & Development for CGAP, where she led CGAP’s strategy development and its research on women’s financial inclusion, financial services in crisis environments, and other emerging topics. Prior to this, she managed CGAP’s work with the donor and investor community-based in Paris, France. From 2002 to 2009, Mayada founded and managed a development consulting firm. She has also led numerous technical assistance, evaluation, and research assignments, served as a research director for a USAID initiative, and lectured at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs. Mayada started her career working with several non-profit organizations establishing inclusive financial institutions in the Palestinian Territories, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Kosovo.

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