Yamama Kenawy has more than 20 years of management and strategic planning experience. Before joining Sanabel in July 2018, she held several leadership and consulting positions with various companies as well as NGOs and learning institutions, such as Ericsson, Raya, LBI International, Mobily, Egyptian Businessmen’s Association, and King Khaled Foundation. She holds the Cambridge Diploma in Project Management and is certified as a Project Management Professional by the Project Management Institute and a Certified Lean Manager (CLM) from The Lean Institute. Yamama graduated from the American University in Cairo, Egypt with a BA in Economics.
FinDev: Tell us a bit about yourself and your vision as the new Executive Director of Sanabel, the Microfinance Network for Arab Countries.
Yamama: Like Sanabel, I belong to the Arab World. I am half Egyptian, half Syrian, I grew up and lived in Tunisia for 13 years and worked in Saudi Arabia for eight years. My educational background and professional experience are in business administration and management with expertise across different industries such as manufacturing, communications, technology, and trade. My vision for Sanabel is to be the most effective and responsible partner institution for all stakeholders working on financial inclusion in the Arab region. In the coming years, I hope that Sanabel will thrive to reposition itself to provide value-added services to the industry through knowledge-sharing among peers, exchange of experiences at different levels, and quality research and analysis around the pressing financial inclusion issues in the region. We hope to achieve this through strategic partnerships and alliances, effective management of stakeholder expectations, and lean operational systems coupled with continuous human resources learning and development.
FinDev: What is the role of Sanabel’s annual conference in advancing financial inclusion in the region?
Yamama: Over the past 16 years, Sanabel’s Annual Conference has been the flagship event for financial inclusion in the Arab region, bringing together practitioners, donors and investors, experts and other stakeholders. At this event, experiences and learning are shared, new concepts and models are introduced, and partnerships and business alliances are formed, with the ultimate objective of exploring ways to advance financial inclusion in the region.
We are honored to have the Sanabel conference this year under the patronage of H.E. Prime Minister of Jordan, Dr. Omar Razzaz and to have the participation of high-level regulators and policy makers from different Arab countries. In addition to international experts, we are also excited to have new players in the sector such as fintech and microfinance companies attending the conference.
FinDev: This year’s annual conference has the overarching theme of “Responsible Finance.” Why did you choose this theme, and what can conference participants look forward to this year?
Yamama: As financial services providers become operationally sustainable and access to financial services for the poor increases, we should not forget the social and responsible parts of the equation - the achievement of the social mission while the clients are treated responsibly. Moreover, recent evidence has shown that being responsible and having the customers at the center are indeed good for business.
This year, the Sanabel conference therefore focuses on responsible finance. The sessions will focus on different aspects of responsible finance concepts, models and tools such as client protection, Smart Certification, customer centricity, social performance management, corporate governance, ownership structure and transformation, the risks associated with digital financial services; just to name a few.
Sanabel will also host a number of other related events, including:
A pre-conference training on responsible finance for the senior leadership of our member institutions.
The presentation of our annual award, which recognizes the achievements of one of our members in translating its social mission into practice.
My vision for Sanabel is to be the most effective and responsible partner institution for all stakeholders working on financial inclusion in the Arab region.
FinDev: Sanabel is a partner of the Arab Financial Inclusion Innovation Prize (AFIIP), whose winners will be announced at the conference this year. How do you see innovation and why is it important?
Yamama: Innovation is what leads any industry to move forward and reach new levels of growth and impact. Sanabel has been promoting best practices in the sector through the years but more is needed. We are glad to partner with interested stakeholders to encourage innovation in the Arab region and promote new ideas and business models to boost financial inclusion. AFIIP is a multi-stakeholder initiative launched with the support of CGAP, Delta Informatics, International Finance Corporation (IFC), Sanad Technical Assistance Facility, Spectrum Digital Holding, and Jordanian MFI Tamweelcom in addition to Sanabel. We are excited to present the results from the AFIIP’s first round and to host the awards ceremony at the Sanabel conference this year. Sanabel looks forward to further collaboration over the coming years to spur more innovation in the sector to advance financial inclusion.
FinDev: What are the key areas you will focus on over the coming two years to contribute to the achievement of Sanabel’s vision and mission?
Yamama: The microfinance sector is going through many changes and developments: new players are entering the industry, traditional microfinance institutions are transforming, new regulations are being issued, many countries of the Arab region are under turbulence. Financial inclusion is no longer just an option, but rather an important component of the national development strategies of many countries in the region. Accordingly, Sanabel’s role as the regional network of Arab microfinance institutions becomes even more important.
I am starting by performing a situation analysis of Sanabel to identify the needs, expectations, challenges, and opportunities of both internal and external stakeholders, and to assess the current available resources and systems. I have started this exercise and hope to continue it after the annual conference, with the aim of developing an action plan that optimizes and prioritizes interventions for the coming two years. My objective is to turn Sanabel into an agile and lean organization that best serves its members and the whole microfinance sector for the advancement of financial inclusion in the Arab region.
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