The past few days witnessed great effort by the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) and banks operating in the local market to achieve financial inclusion in Egypt.
The CBE established a special central unit to improve the level of financial inclusion. This unit is headed by Khaled Bassiouny and supervised by CBE deputy Mai Abulnaga.
Before taking office, Bassiouny was a business development director at the Egyptian Banking Institute (EBI). During his work at EBI, he supervised the For Tomorrow campaign to educate children and youth about the importance of saving and financial services. The initiative educated over 5 million people around the republic.
He then joined the National Committee to prepare a National Strategy for Financial Education, which was formed in 2013. This strategy has been put together by the EBI recently and is now being reviewed by the CBE.
The banks operating in the local market have spread out throughout the country over the course of the week to spread the culture of financial inclusion and the awareness of citizens of its importance and impact on their lives and the future of their children.
The question posed by Daily News Egypt was whether these efforts will be successful in achieving financial inclusion in Egypt.
This question comes in the light of recent figures released by the CBE, indicating that the lack of a geographical spread of branches and ATMs may hinder financial inclusion.
According to the CBE, the total number of branches of all banks operating in the local market is 4,000, with about 111,400 employees.
The Egyptian Agricultural Bank (EAB) holds a total of 1,210 branches, Banque Misr 580, the National Bank of Egypt (NBE) 388 branches, and Banque du Caire 237 branches.
As of the end of December 2016, there are about 9,832 ATMs. The NBE has 3,300 machines, Banque Misr 1,715, and Banque du Caire 625, in addition to 62,764 electronic points of sale.
Banks operating in the Egyptian market, until the end of 2016, issued 3.86 million credit cards, 12.08 million debit cards, and about 8.648 million prepaid cards.
The leaders of the banks and the officials of the electronic payment companies interviewed by Daily News Egypt in this issue stressed that the achievement of financial inclusion is no longer dependent on the geographical spread of banks or on the number of ATMs and point of sales, as much as it depends on modern technology represented by the Internet and mobile phones.
They explained that nearly all citizens now have mobile phones, and some have more than one phone, which makes it easy to reach them at their homes or workplaces.
But does the achievement of financial inclusion in Egypt depend on the banking sector alone? And what are the obstacles to achieving this? What is required for Egypt to succeed in achieving financial inclusion?
We are answering all these and other questions in this special issue.