Earlier this month, we announced that Mayada El-Zoghbi is joining us as the new Managing Director of the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion (CFI). Mayada is known for her extensive research in – and advocacy for – financial inclusion. As CGAP’s Lead for Strategy, Research & Development, she coordinated CGAP’s strategy development and its research on women’s financial inclusion, financial services in crisis environments, and other emerging topics.
Prior to CGAP, Mayada founded and managed a development consulting firm, led numerous technical assistance, evaluation, and research assignments, served as a research director for a USAID initiative, helped develop several financial institutions, and lectured at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).
CFI: What sparked your passion for financial inclusion, and what continues to propel it as you assume your new role at CFI?
Mayada: After graduating from college, I went to Morocco on a research fellowship with a program called Minnesota Studies in International Development (MSID). I lived both with a family in Rabat and spent a month in a rural community doing survey work on a rural credit research project with a professor from the Agronomy Institute in Rabat. This experience piqued my interest in financial services.
The project in Morocco was clearly not good practice and I was interested to learn more about what works. I decided to go back to graduate school to learn more about it, so I studied at SIPA. It was during a course on microenterprise development, taught by Heather Clark, who was heading UNCDF at the time and who is now a dear friend, that I knew for sure that this was a field that combined all of my interests in business, financial services, and sustainable development. Most importantly, it aligned with my social values.
The inclusive finance field has expanded so much beyond my initial exposure to an agricultural loan program in rural Morocco. The many ways in which this sector continues to evolve and expand is what continues to draw me in. I’m especially excited by our ability to shape responsible growth of the industry, and the role that organizations like CFI have in guiding both public and private sector actors in inclusive finance.
I’m especially excited by our ability to shape responsible growth of the industry.
CFI: Why did you choose to join CFI? What about CFI resonated with you?
Mayada: I’ve worked on inclusive finance from many angles: managing institutions in the field, supporting donors on their strategies, conducting research, providing technical assistance to providers and other stakeholders. All of these experiences have been rewarding, but perhaps the role that I’ve enjoyed the most is thought leadership. I’ve been fortunate to do that at CGAP for the past 10 years.
With its convening power, independence, and ability to influence the private sector, investors and the broader inclusive finance community, CFI is unique. Its position as an independent think tank with deep expertise in consumer protection and a strong advocacy platform representing people living in poverty makes it an extremely compelling platform for me personally. At a time when digital platforms represent transformative opportunities to serve the poor and present serious risks for those who are the least able to withstand those risks, there’s no denying that a laser focus on consumer protection has to be front and center. Ensuring that the digital economy evolves in a way that’s both inclusive and protective is critical, and I believe that CFI is well positioned to lead the industry in such a way as to make that a reality.