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Africa SME Finance Forum

In May 2018, CYFI's Co-Director, Lubna Shaban, participated at the Africa SME Finance Forum in Nairobi, Kenya by speaking on the panel discussion, 'Disrupting Systems: Financing Africa's Youth Entrepreneurs'. 

Lubna and other panelists highlighted the need for the financial sector, with the support of policymakers, to serve youth entrepreneurs through the provision of tailor-made financial products and services that can help them grow their businesses. Lubna also highlighted the need for different ecosystem actors to collaborate and coordinate their efforts in serving this important segment.

The session which took place was chaired and coordinated by The Mastercard Foundation.

The SME Finance Forum, managed by the IFC, works to expand access to finance for SMEs. The Forum brings together financial institutions, technology companies, and development finance institutions, driving the growth of SMEs globally.

A summary of the event can be found here

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Cryptocurrencies: A Wise Investment?

Here at Children and Youth Finance International (CYFI), we see that the key to fighting poverty is for people to learn how to manage and handle money, to have the confidence, knowledge and capability to spend and earn responsibly, ensuring good financial health. This is particularly important for children and youth, so that they can make correct financial decisions from the start.

Good financial health involves more than controlling daily transactions. It is important to own investments as they provide long-term returns and savings that can cover unexpected expenses.

"Saving to cover unexpected expenses" sounds clear (and boringly necessary), but what about investments?

Nowadays, when thinking about investments, cryptocurrencies and their high return in the last years immediately come to mind. There are many stories of people who got rich quickly by betting on this novelty. Stories that encourage more and more people to enter this market. These stories are particularly appealing to a group of the population which see an opportunity to quickly make big bucks with their little investment potential, are used to instantaneous results and are more willing to take risks: young people. Moreover, cryptocurrencies have the natural appeal of being novel and innovative, and a sense of urgency is created around them: if you wait too long, the opportunity will pass, many people will have made a lot of money, but not you.

Should you close this web page and immediately open a wallet to invest in cryptocurrencies?

No. Cryptocurrencies are not a good investment to ensure your financial health. For all of the people that have made it big with a short-term get rich scheme, there are hundreds that have crashed and burned following the same strategy. Good investments must have medium- and long-term returns and, above all, have the security that allows for financial planning around them. Cryptocurrencies do not have this characteristic. Although some cryptocurrencies have more than doubled their value in one month, a loss of almost half of their value in the same period has also been documented. In addition, because they have only been on the market for a short time, estimating their medium- and long-term behavior is pure guesswork. Their unpredictable character makes it impossible to compute investment in cryptocurrencies that would enable financial planning. Furthermore, many people seem to think that cryptocurrencies are safe. In theory, this is true as they are anonymous and at the basic level, nothing identifies you with what you hold. However, when one uses third party traders, personal information is exchanged thus leading to the potential for identity theft or outright theft of your digital currency if the company is hacked. Another key problem has less to do with the technology and more with the human use thereof. Cryptocurrencies make use of a personal key, essentially a unique identifier that allows the network to accept and make transactions on your account. This key should never be stored on a device connected to the internet and furthermore, it is recommended that whenever conducting a transaction a VPN should be used. Most people can barely create a password for their email address that is considered "safe" let alone do all of these things. We need only look to the half billion stolen from Japanese based Coincheck exchange last year for strong warnings.

Financial planning is a crucial concept here. Saving and investing every month may sound much less sexy than getting rich within six months by investing in a new technology people do not yet know or understand. It may seem less attractive (especially for young people) than cryptocurrencies, which disregard traditional financial governing bodies, such as governments and banks. However, financial planning is the only method of investment which guarantees consistent financial health in the long-run.

So how CAN you ensure long-term financial stability and financial health? Sorry to disappoint and perhaps sound like your grandfather or a public service announcement, but it requires planning and hard work and a long-term investment horizon.

How CYFI helps you

We know financial planning can be a long and arduous process, with many external barriers and difficult decisions along the way. That is why CYFI advocates with your government for Economic Citizenship Education and carries out different initiatives:

  • Global Money Week is an annual financial awareness campaign created to inspire children and young people to learn about money matters, livelihoods, and entrepreneurship;
  • Ye! Community connects young entrepreneurs around the world and links them to various resources to support the growth of their enterprises;
  • The Global Inclusion Awards 2018 recognize and honor those who achieve greatness in furthering the Economic Citizenship of children and youth.

In several initiatives we partner with other relevant players to increase our reach and impact:

  • CYFI Global Summit 2018, hosted by the Banking Association South Africa (BASA) together with CYFI, is the major global summit focusing on youth economic citizenship, entrepreneurship, financial education, and financial inclusion for children and youth;
  • SchoolBank aims to economically empowerment of children and youth by providing them with access to appropriate banking products, economic citizenship education and practical skills for using a bank account. Local banks offering Child &Youth friendly banking products are engaged with local schools, under the supervision of the Ministry of Education and Central bank regulators, to provide such products through the school system.

There are several ways to participate in the system change, our collaborative process to create large-scale change. CYFI acts on many fronts for this because we believe that children and youth are the next generation of changemakers. They are tomorrow's business leaders, politicians, parents, teachers. They unlock their potential when they believe in themselves.

We hope to inspire others to join us.

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CYFI’s Founder Ms. Jeroo Billimoria appointed Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau

Jeroo Billimoria is appointed Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau, April 2018

CYFI are thrilled to announce that on 26 April 2018, CYFI's Founder Ms. Jeroo Billimoria received a Royal Honor from the King of the Netherlands by being appointed Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau.

The Order of Orange-Nassau (Orde van Oranje-Nassau) is a special high-ranking Dutch civilian order of chivalry awarded to persons who have committed outstanding service to society. As an Officer of the Order, Jeroo is now ranked among renowned Dutch politicians, artists and scientists.

Global Social Entrepreneur

This Honor recognizes Jeroo's contribution to global society, having established and led multiple international non-governmental organizations based in the Netherlands. Jeroo founded Child Helpline International (CHI) in 2003 with the intention of improving child protection systems by strengthening child helplines around the world. Today, CHI comprises a network of 180 helplines in 147 countries. Following CHI in 2005, Jeroo founded Aflatoun International to teach children about money to break the cycle of poverty. The Alfatoun campaign received the support of H.M. Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, and, in partnership with Nederlandsche Bank and Deloitte, reached 11 million people in 109 countries. In 2011, Jeroo founded her third organization, Child and Youth Finance International (CYFI), a global system change organization working with partners in over 150 countries to ensure financial inclusion and Economic Citizenship Education for young people worldwide. CYFI has reached 36 million young people under Jeroo's leadership, supporting 16,000 youth entrepreneurs through the Ye! Community initiative and reaching over 7 million children in their annual, Global Money Week.

International Impact

Jeroo is considered among the world's leading social entrepreneurs and is now working on her ninth entrepreneurial venture. In the last 15 years, Jeroo's three organizations have touched the lives of an estimated 200 million children globally. NGO Advisor recently ranked Aflatoun International, CYFI and CHI in the Top 500 NGOs World making Jeroo the only person globally to have three organization ranked in the top 100. With her organizations ranked at 26th, 32nd and 84th place (respectively), Jeroo's work is highly regarded across the non-profit network.

Not only is Jeroo a Skoll Awardee, she is also an Ashoka and Schwab Fellow. She was recognized for her innovation and leadership when she was awarded Union of Arab Banks award in 2015. Jeroo was ranked 3rd in the charity and non-profit category of Opzij's Top 100 Influential Women.

A Personal Achievement

Jeroo's appointment as Officer in the Order of Oranje-Nassau is made all the more remarkable as she is the only non-European to receive a royal honor amongst all the ranks this year, and by the fact that she moved to the Netherlands 15 years ago and managed to accomplish all that she did despite not knowing anyone except her husband.

Reflecting on the Honor, Jeroo said: 

"This is a remarkable honor I share with all of my colleagues across organizations, partners and supporters that have believed and shared our vision. With long standing strategic partners like Deloitte, Houthoff Buruma, Mastercard Foundation, Mastercard Corporation, McKinsey & Company, the players of the People's Postcode Lottery and the Zurich Foundation we have been able to accomplish all that we did and empower young people across the world to take the future into their own hands."

The CYFI team are proud of Jeroo's achievements and are looking forward to supporting her in her next venture. 

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Addressing the Persistent Problem of Youth Unemployment

Author : Emma Broholm

Since 2015 countries, organizations, and individuals, including Child & Youth Finance International (CYFI), have vowed to implement and follow the United Nation's 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). CYFI focuses on 8 SDGs specifically, including SDG 8 - decent work and economic growth - which is relevant for CYFI's Financial Inclusion Framework. It is worth noting that both CYFI and the SDGs focus on job growth for youth and with good reason. Across the world, 71 million young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are registered as unemployed. To clarify, ILO defines unemployment as someone without work, available for work and actively seeking work. Youth unemployment is a current and acute problem that unfortunately is often labeled as "too difficult to solve now". Worldwide youth unemployment is a problem too vast and too region specific to discuss here, therefore, this article will focus solely on youth unemployment in Sub-Saharan Africa and its causes and possible solutions.

Currently, 11.6 million young people are registered unemployed in Sub-Saharan Africa. There are multiple causes for this, first and foremost, lack of proper education. Millions of children do not acquire basic reading, writing and mathematics skills, however this is not the only problem. When children do have the opportunity, they do not receive a proper education, the emphasis being on proper. Most national curricula do not have the resources to focus on vocational subjects, including entrepreneurship education, or how to develop and properly use soft skills, such as research and communication skills. This prevents young people from discovering their unique talents and prevents them from acquiring the skills needed to find employment to suit their skillset. Linked to the lack of wholesome education, is the lack of proper funding. To implement an educational reform and to fund research and employment programs, extensive funding is needed. Between 2010 and 2014, the donor aid for education dropped by 14%. This led to a halt in the much-needed educational reform. Finally, attention should be paid to the current gender disparities in education. Worldwide, there are more than 61 million uneducated young girls, and of these women, approximately 29 million live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Despite the abundance of evidence that suggests educating girls leads to social, economic and health gains and reduce youth unemployment, this continues to be the case.

While the ever-growing problem of youth unemployment cannot be solved overnight, a few long-term solutions can be offered. The most obvious change is the provision of quality education, which is unfortunately easier said than done. The Equity Group Foundation, an initiative by Equity Bank Kenya, has begun to address the issue in Kenya. In collaboration with Mastercard, the Foundation started a financial education program – covering budgeting, savings, debt management, financial negotiations, and banking services. Furthermore, the Foundation launched an entrepreneurship-training program, offering training to young entrepreneurs to increase the entrepreneurs' practical business skills. To date, the program has mentored and supported over 11,500 youth, women and emerging entrepreneurs. In addition to these programs, educational reforms must also be implemented. The National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) of Uganda suggested that students must be taught how to be independent and use their personalized skillset to their advantage. The school curriculum should not solely focus on standardized subjects, but also on subjects that ensure that students are self-reliant and productive. This does not only apply to Uganda, but should extend into Sub-Saharan Africa and the entire world. Students, regardless of gender, should receive equal education that does not treat them as part of a system, but instead looks at individual skillsets, enabling them to differentiate themselves.

It can therefore be concluded that while solving the issue of youth unemployment cannot be done overnight, it can most certainly be addressed without falling back on the idea of it being "too difficult to solve now". Quality of education not only seems to be the biggest cause, but also the greatest solution for youth unemployment. Thus, a focus must be placed on offering proper education to young people, whether this is by way of changing the national curriculum or offering educational programs outside of the traditional school system. 

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