On Thursday 18. November 2021, Sparkassenstiftung North Macedonia welcomed an impressive list of individuals, organisations and institutions who gathered virtually to:
- Discuss the current state of financial inclusion and financial literacy in North Macedonia;
- Learn about the current and future activities of German Sparkassenstiftung in the region (Albania and North Macedonia); and
- Share ideas and generate discussion on how stakeholders can work together to further financial inclusion and increase financial literacy in the Republic of North Macedonia.
The meeting utilized an online conferencing application to bring together participants from a wide variety of organisations and enterprises, including state-run institutions, banks, universities, NGOs and representatives from Sparkassenstiftung head office in Bonn, Germany.
Mr. Niclaus Bergmann, the Managing Director of German Sparkassenstiftung was unable to attending the meeting live, but opened the meeting, (via a pre-recorded video), by providing an overview of DSIK’s work–both nationally in Germany and internationally. He introduced the DSIK project in Albania and how the North Macedonia sub-project commenced, including an overview of the fact-finding mission and how permission and funding were granted to extend the Albania project to include North Macedonia. He praised the participants and organisers and expressed a high level of excitement in the new project.
“I would like to thank everybody who is participating in the workshop today, for all your contributions. I would like to thank the organization team who made this event possible and I would also like to say a big thanks to our Sparkassenstiftung team in North Macedonia and Albania for the work they are doing.”
- Niclaus Bergmann, Managing Director of Sparkassenstiftung für international Kooperation e.V.
Mr. Otto Graf, the Deputy Head of Mission at the German Embassy in North Macedonia spoke next, commenting how financial education is an often-overlooked component of national development. He drew attention to the fact that North Macedonia is a small country with a significant rural population and he emphasised the importance of these rural populations and their impact on the development of the country. He used a personal anecdote to highlight the longstanding tradition of German Sparkassenstiftung as a bank that demonstrated financial inclusion and supports average citizens, providing services tailored to people of varied incomes.
“It is important to identify the needs of people in this country and we are happy
that DSIK is doing that. We wish this project all the success”
- Mr. Otto Graf, Deputy Head of Mission at the German Embassy in North Macedonia
Honored Guest Presenter
Workshop participants then directed their attention to Ms. Ana Mitreska, the Vice Governor of the National Bank of North Macedonia, who provided an in-depth presentation on financial inclusion both internationally and nationally through a visual presentation with statistics and graphs. She emphasised the importance of financial literacy and financial inclusion for the overall growth of the country, and shared details on the North Macedonian Financial Literacy Strategy. Based on surveys of the North Macedonian public, she explained that there is a reasonable level of awareness about the use and function of various financial products, but that they are not being used to their full potential. She also provided interesting information on the use of digital banking services in the country, and highlighted portions of the population where disparities are present, as well as some of the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was an honour to hear from Ms. Mitreska and we are looking forward to working closely with her, her staff and the National Bank of North Macedonia throughout the duration of the project.
“Digital financial services have been identified as an important opportunity to
increase financial education and is an area where focus is needed.”
- Ms. Ana Mitreska, the Vice Governor, National Bank of North Macedonia
Workshop facilitators lead participants through an activity where participants were asked questions via their smartphones, and their responses produced live graphics. Questions were designed to introduce the participants in a creative and interactive manner. The graphics displayed what city or country participants were attending from, what sector and institution they represented and how well they knew DSIK. The results were digestible, entertaining and very interesting and provided a change of pace of the workshop.
DSIK in North Macedonia
Following a brief break, Sparkassenstiftung Regional Director of South East Europe and Country Director of Albania, Anja Deinzer, took the virtual stage providing a comprehensive introduction to both the activities in North Macedonia but also to the Strengthening Financial Literacy project in Albania. She highlighted one of the key project strengths, which is working with both the recipients of financial education, but also the financial institutions themselves. The project will partner with institutions in the financial sector to work together to improve the products and services, with a focus on making them more accessible to farmers and rural populations. She also discussed Sparkassenstiftung’s “blended learning” approach, which includes tailor made training programs for farmers, entrepreneurs and households, as well as the three business games that Sparkassenstiftung has created for these three groups respectively; the Farmer’s Business Game, Micro Business Game and Savings Game. The objective, she shared, is to have the first tools available at the beginning of next year, in order to start the first pilot trainings with the partner organisations.
“We are already busy identifying partner organisations to work with and
we have already had the first meeting with some of these partners.
"We have also started translating all our training materials into the
North Macedonia languages – Macedonian and Albanian.”
- Anja Deinzer, Sparkassenstiftung Regional Director of South
East Europe and Country Director of Albania
North Macedonia 2020 Fact-Finding Mission
One of the most anticipated segments of the workshop was the presentation of the results of the 2020 Fact-Finding Mission, carried out both virtually and in person by three DSIK experts in November and December of last year.
Biljana Mojsovska Manojlova, an educational expert and part of the Sparkassenstiftung North Macedonia team, started off with a personal story of financial literacy paired with North Macedonian culture. She used colorful images to help describe how her hard-working mother in-law uses financial literacy skills when making homemade red pepper spreads typical of North Macedonia and a tradition for this time of year. This story brought international participants to the kitchen and markets of North Macedonia, and illustrated many of the topics the project in North Macedonia will address. Later in workshop Biljana summarized the mission’s findings and described some of the financial inclusion challenges that individuals and institutions face, as articulated by various stakeholder who were interviewed during the fact-finding mission.
“There is a low level of financial literacy for farmers and rural populations.
One of the financial inclusion challenges lies in the lack of capacity building
– someone needs to pass the knowledge on to the farmers.”
- Biljana Mojsovska Manojlova, Educational Expert
Financial expert Imer Dalipi spoke next, presenting an overview of the financial sector in North Macedonia, as revealed through the fact-finding mission. He discussed the differences between providers of financial services and the users and also provided an overview of how the financial sector in North Macedonia is being used and how to optimize it in the context of the project.
“There is a high number of financial institutions that are already cooperating and
together with DSIK, can contribute to the development of raising awareness
of financial education and including in the country.”
- Imer Dalipi, Financial Expert
Dr. Irina Hetsch, the North Macedonia Fact Finding Mission Project Leader, follow up with by discussing the processes involved in the mission, and how over 30 meetings were carried out to determine the needs, conditions and possibilities for implementing a partnership project in North Macedonia. She described some of the recommendations the Fact-Finding Mission team made, many of which are already in progress, like the orientation and implementation phases where the objective is to identify multipliers and partners and more specifically what training they need to multiply the subjects to their target groups in rural areas. She also discussed the significance of incorporating topics of climate change adaptation and impacts and how these topics should be considered when creating financial services for farmers.
“For rural entrepreneurs and farmers, the topics ofclimate change, climate change adaptation
and climate change impacts will, from year-to-year, become more relevant.
Therefore, it is important to develop products that are addressing future
development challenges with regards to climate change.”
- Dr. Irina Hetsch, Fact Finding Mission Project Leader
Interactive Breakout Session
A 30-minute breakout session was conducted, giving attendees a chance to share their experience, recommendations and professional opinions on the direction and focus of the project in a smaller, more intimate setting. The participants were directed virtually to ‘rooms’ where they were asked to provide their opinion and experience to answer following three questions:
- What would be options to strengthen financial literacy in rural areas of North Macedonia (especially for farmers)?
- How could DSIK support these needs?
- What potential areas of cooperation do you see for your organisation?
The results of the session were discussed briefly when the participants joined the main workshop again, and will be analysed in depth by the DSIK North Macedonia team following the workshop.
A brief Q&A session followed, where participants could have their questions (submitted throughout the workshop via the group chat) answered.
Anja Deinzer closed the workshop with some summarizing comments and encouraging participants to follow the newly launched DSIK North Macedonia Facebook page for future announcements and events. She expressed gratitude to all the speakers, participants, organizations and honored guests that made the workshop possible and expressed excitement for the upcoming weeks, which already include a meeting with the National Bank of North Macedonia next week.
“This is the formal kick-off and we are now starting our work in North Macedonia
officially and we invite everyone to join us and work with us.”
- Anja Deinzer, Regional Director South East Europe and Country Director of Albania
To echo the words of Ms. Deinzer, Sparkassenstiftung Albania and North Macedonia would like to thank all participants for a very lively and very refreshing workshop. The next months promise to be predictive, innovative and very exciting for financial inclusion and financial literacy in the Republic of North Macedonia.