Welcome address & Opening remarks

  • Christoph PAUSCH, European Microfinance Platform (e-MFP)
  • Christophe SCHILTZ, Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs

    e-MFP’s Executive Secretary Christoph PAUSCH welcomed the participants to the European Microfinance Week (EMW) 2021 which was yet another virtual event due to COVID-19 circumstances. Pausch had very much hoped to meet with the participants in person this year to celebrate e-MFP’s 15th anniversary. e-MFP was founded in Luxembourg by 20 committed practitioners  from around Europe to network and collaborate to advance the microfinance sector and has meanwhile grown to a strong network of more than 130 members. The platform has since evolved from having a focus on microfinance to covering the more diverse aspects of financial inclusion.

    This was marked by this year’s EMW opening theme of ‘Climate change after COP26 - what’s next for inclusive finance?’. As Pausch pointed out, the EMW 2021 was to cover an unprecedented diverse programme with more than 50 sessions, reflecting the sector’s growing complexity with new and diverse challenges, hence requiring a holistic view of the financial sector to come up with solutions for tomorrow. Openness and the sharing of knowledge constitute the ‘raison d’être’ of e-MFP, and the EMW remains the heart and soul of the platform. And now more than ever, it is vital to connect and find solutions for the most pressing issues of the sector.

    In that regard, the main themes of the EMW 2021 were outlined: the renewed relevance of health care for vulnerable populations; the continued critical importance of adaptation to climate change; understanding the twin threats and opportunity of the digital revolution; and, developing assessment and measurement frameworks to ensure that actions align with words.

    Pausch concluded by expressing a big thanks to the main funders, sponsors and media partners, and again welcomed the participants to enjoy the EMW 2021.

    Christophe SCHILTZ, General Coordinator at the Directorate for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs at the Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs then welcomed the participants in his opening remarks, and congratulated the e-MFP on its anniversary and for again gathering key-players in the sector.

    Schiltz remarked that Luxemburg is increasingly recognised as an international hub and progressive ecosystem for financial inclusion, with the aim of reducing poverty worldwide. Luxembourg’s new strategy on innovative and inclusive finance puts emphasis on the importance of mobilising additional resources through public-private partnerships, in addition to its traditionally grants-based financing policy. By increasing the availability and usage of financial services such as credit, insurance or savings, Luxembourg aims to promote the development of economic opportunities for vulnerable populations, especially women and young people.

    Schiltz continued to reflect on this year’s EMW topics of financial inclusion, such as digitalisation, the empowerment of women, agricultural finance, impact measurement, and the consequences of climate change and COVID-19 for the sector. Women are largely still a vulnerable group, and hit hardest by the pandemic for being least resilient to the shocks caused by lockdowns. However, as all 3 finalists of the European Microfinance Award 2021 show, women are by no means only a vulnerable group; they play a key role in the advancement of their communities.

    Schiltz referenced the very recent COP26 climate summit, by pointing to the importance of not just slowing climate change down, but to also ensure that vulnerable and excluded communities can adapt, in order to avoid that precarious households fall back into poverty due to the climate crisis. Hence the need for in-depth reflections on challenges and solutions during the EMW 2021.