UNSGSA Queen Máxima to Champion Financial Inclusion Priorities, Emphasize Financial Health on Brazil Visit

UNSGSA Queen Máxima speaks to the press in Brasilia.
UNSGSA Queen Máxima and Brazil's Minister of Finance Fernando Haddad speak to assembled press in Brasilia during the UNSGSA's visit on 6 June 2023. Photo: Patrick van Katwijk

Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA), will visit Brazil on 4-7 June 2023. The aim of the visit is for the UNSGSA to support and collaborate with public and private sector leaders to bolster progress in inclusive finance in the country.

Brazil has made significant strides in financial inclusion over the last decade. Eighty-four percent of adults in Brazil have access to a formal financial account (either from a formal financial institution or a mobile money provider), according to the World Bank Global Findex (2021). This represents a rise from 70% in 2017 and from 56% in 2011. Still, 27 million adults in Brazil remain unbanked today.

The Special Advocate will aim to build on this success and promote ways for access to financial services to increase safe and effective participation in the digital economy. This includes elevating the importance of financial health as a key policy objective and leveraging financial sector innovations to deliver solutions that can improve financial health for people.

Financial health refers to the extent a person or family can smoothly manage their current financial obligations and have confidence in their financial future—including day-to-day finances, resilience, future goals, and feeling secure and in control of one’s finances. A more explicit recognition of financial health as a goal, accompanied by measurement of gaps in the financial health of the population can help policymakers set a financial inclusion agenda clearly focused on positive outcomes.

Financial health is a critical issue in Brazil. According to the 2022 Brazilian Financial Health Index Survey (I-SFB) produced by the Brazilian Federation of Banks (Febraban), in collaboration with the Banco Central do Brasil (BCB), the average financial health score for a Brazilian adult suggested a low level of financial health, indicating early signs of financial difficulties and a high risk of financial stress.

Nearly 80% of adults in Brazil surveyed (Findex) stated that they are worried about not having enough money for monthly expenses or bills, as well as not having sufficient money for old age. Further, 55% of adults are worried about being unable to pay for their children’s education fees.

During the visit, Queen Máxima will also stress the importance of Brazil’s ongoing pro-competition approach to building a responsible inclusive digital finance ecosystem and infrastructure. This includes interoperable payments and an emerging open finance regime. This approach is necessary to reach underserved groups like the poor, women, smallholder farmers and small businesses. The UNSGSA is expected to encourage Brazil’s efforts in data sharing and consumer protection to keep pace with digital financial risks from innovation.

Additionally, the UNSGSA will highlight inclusive green finance, particularly the role of financial services to increase resilience and support adaptation from climate risks at a household and small business level, as well as building on Brazil’s longstanding engagement on sustainable finance.

Activities will begin on 5 June in São Paulo, when the UNSGSA opens the morning meeting with key partners and later participates in a financial health roundtable. She will also conduct a pair of client visits in the vicinity of São Paulo, enabling her to meet with businesses and clients of innovative financial services providers to discuss firsthand their experiences.

On 6 June, the UNSGSA will participate in a fintech roundtable, as well as conduct another client visit in São Paulo, in the morning. She will then travel to Brasilia to hold afternoon meetings, followed by a final day of meetings on 7 June, with key public and private sector leaders in Brazil. These are expected to include Minister of Finance Fernando Haddad, BCB President Roberto Campos Neto, Social Development, Assistance, Family and Fight against Hunger Minister Wellington Dias, and Caixa Econômica Federal (CEF) President Rita Serrano. It is foreseen that the Special Advocate will make a trip to a local school to visit a financial education class on the final day, as well.

This will be Queen Máxima’s second visit to Brazil as the Special Advocate. The previous visit was held in May 2012. Partners from the UNSGSA’s Reference Group that will support technical work on the upcoming visit include the Better than Cash Alliance, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), and the World Bank Group.