Financial Health and Innovation to be Focus of UN Special Advocate Queen Máxima Visit to Colombia

Colombia 2014 UNSGSA Queen Máxima visit, archived image
UNSGSA Queen Máxima will visit Colombia to promote financial inclusion and financial health in a country visit on 25-28 February 2024. Above she is pictured during a previous visit in her UNSGSA role to Colombia in 2014. Photo: Robin Utrecht

H.M. Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA), is scheduled to visit Colombia from 25-28 February 2024. The UNSGSA’s visit aims to support efforts to increase financial inclusion and strengthen financial health nationwide, emphasizing traditionally underserved groups like the poor, women, smallholder farmers, small businesses, and the rural.

Colombia has made commendable strides in financial inclusion, with the number of adults owning a bank account rising from 39% in 2011 to 60% in 2021, according to the World Bank Global Findex. However, notable gaps remain in the country, especially a gender disparity in account ownership—64% for men versus 56% for women as of 2021 (Global Findex). Queen Máxima’s visit aims to spotlight these issues and support the expansion of diverse financial services that reach all corners of Colombian society.

Queen Máxima will start her visit in Medellín with an important evening discussion on the 25th, sitting down with key financial inclusion partners. On the next day, she will go into the community on three ‘field visits’ to see firsthand how financial products and services are making a difference. The UNSGSA will visit a fintech aiding retirees who start businesses, highlighting their economic impact and mentorship. She'll also observe a financial cooperative helping to improve low-income residents' economic prospects. A farm visit is on the schedule, where a fintech facilitates investment in sustainable agriculture. In Medellín, the Special Advocate will discuss financial service enhancements with Bancolombia.

Field visits are key to understanding the variety of financial services available, including innovative tech finance and local cooperatives. These insights are crucial, as they will inform broader conversations about financial policies that Queen Máxima will have with national leaders during her visit.

The UNSGSA will then continue onwards to Bogota for the remainder of the trip, where she will conduct a series of roundtable discussions with the public and private sector, as well as bilateral meetings with senior leadership across government.

A key moment on the 27th will be a bilateral meeting between Queen Máxima and President Gustavo Petro. She will also meet Vice President Francia Márquez. Additionally, bilateral meetings with leading financial authorities are scheduled, including talks with Minister of Finance Ricardo Bonilla, Banco de la República Governor Leonardo Villar, and Superintendencia Financiera de Colombia Superintendent César Ferrari. Throughout the day, the UNSGSA will also participate in a roundtable discussion on financial inclusion.

The visit culminates on the 28th. Queen Máxima will be featured at a fintech conference where she will participate in a closed-door discussion with stakeholders from Colombia’s fintech community. She will also provide opening remarks at the conference. The day will also include a roundtable meeting with national development banks comprising the ‘Grupo Bicentenario’.

Throughout all meetings, Queen Máxima will underscore the progress Colombia has made over the last decade in broadening access to financial services for people. She will discuss open finance and explore ways to broaden financial tools, encouraging stakeholders in Colombia to embrace promoting savings, insurance, and digital transactions. She will also stress the importance of considering financial health not just as an individual concern but as a priority for policymakers and the private sector. By finding ways to measure and support financial health, Colombia can forge policies and initiatives that help citizens manage financial stress and bounce back from tough economic times or unexpected climate events.

This visit, Queen Máxima’s second as the Special Advocate, reaffirms her commitment to enhancing financial services access and financial health. Further, it highlights Colombia's leadership role in regional financial inclusion efforts. The UNSGSA’s previous visit took place on 3-5 March 2014.

UNSGSA Reference Group members supporting this mission include the Better than Cash Alliance, the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), and the World Bank.