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A Message from Co-Chair Maria Ramos

I would like to thank the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Antonio Guiterres for convening this Task Force. The diversity that the membership reflects is exactly what this fundamentally important issue demands.

My fellow Task Force members will bring perspectives from the global North and from the global South; from fintech entrepreneurs, investors, capital markets, civil society, multilaterals and thought leaders. The UN plays a unique role in signaling to the whole world what’s important to its inclusive development and wellbeing.

Only the UN has the ability to convene a group like this, and I feel privileged to share its leadership with Achim Steiner. The work we have to do is so important and exciting that I cannot wait to get to it with my fellow task force members; and to build out a global network of other stakeholders willing to make a positive contribution.

My home continent of Africa was the birthplace of the digital revolution in retail-level finance. The story of Kenya’s M-Pesa, a mobile banking service that allows users to store and transfer money through their mobile phones has long achieved global renown. Safaricom, the largest mobile phone operator in Kenya as of 2016, launched M-Pesa in 2007 as an alternative way for the unbanked population of the country to have access to financial services.

But the digital revolution’s transformation of finance is touching every level of the financial system. At Absa, the organization I lead, we are digitizing in order to provide more efficient, cost-effective and secure solutions to our customers in Africa and across the world.

One of the Task Team’s key objectives is to drive collaboration to provide inclusive solutions that connect the developed and developing worlds; to accelerate financial and economic integration. Just this year our collaboration with WhatsApp, the messaging service, produced ChatBanking on the platform; where payment transactions can be completed in as little as 19 seconds.

Corporate leaders like me have a responsibility to our shareholders of course, and the radical efficiencies that digitization makes possible means their investment is stronger. But we have other stakeholders too. And we need to make sure that our strategies and decisions, including around digitization, serve all stakeholder needs.

Part of that means “first, do no harm” – and that means taking as many people as possible, in particular young people on the journey of digitization. We need to drive their upskilling and the re-skilling of those who otherwise would be threatened by the rapid changes. This is the right way.

It also means moving beyond harm reduction to see how digitization of finance can generate completely new financing models that can advance the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Task Force has commissioned a robust research agenda to get a better sense of the global landscape of digital financing innovations currently underway that are linked to the SDGs. We’ll take that data and see what patterns emerge. We will consult extensively with other stakeholders. And my fellow Task Force members will be contributing their own ideas based on the truly extraordinary level of talent and experience that they bring to this work.

In the end, we will present recommendations to the Secretary-General about how the digital revolution in financing can achieve its highest and best use: to lay the foundation on which inclusive sustainable economies can be built.

We don’t know what those recommendations will be—that’s the journey over the course of the next year. But it will not be a report that sits on a shelf. Rather the work of this Task Force will produce the roadmap for a campaign. The delivery of the recommendations in late 2019 will be when the real work begins, not when it ends!

From the bottom of my heart I believe that even though technological advancements and sustainable development sometimes feel like they are moving in different directions – we cannot retreat from our duty to fight for a better world. We must repay the trust ordinary people have placed in our individual and collective leadership by working hard for an inclusive future, to instill hope to billions. This is my personal commitment.

I thank you.

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