The last day of the Second Annual CYFI Regional Meeting for Europe and Central Asia truly went in the sign of celebration and was closed with great excitement, as European Central Bank President Mr. Mario Draghi gave a closing speech about the importance of financial inclusion and education for the health of the society and the region and got awarded by the youth of the region as the ‘Financial Inclusion Champion’ in Europe and Central Asia.
Mr. Draghi opened his speech by commending the youth representatives on their great efforts and stated the importance of child and youth financial education and inclusion saying:
” While education in general is critical for the health and wealth of society, so is financial education. In the modern world, wherever you live, it is essential to have the skills and knowledge to manage your money and to know at least something about how the economy works. If you have that knowledge, you are more likely to have your own bank account and can then make savings or even borrow money and set up a small business. You are connected to the world around you.”
The speech by Mr. Draghi followed the presentation by the youth representatives with proposals on how they think the ECB can help in fostering financial education and inclusion for children and youth. The youth also invited Mr. Draghi to take part of the celebrations of Global Money Week 2014. A smiling Mr. Draghi thanked the youth for the extent of invitation and said that he would be glad to try to join the celebrations.
The presentation of proposals hade been prepared by the 25 youth delegates form the 12 different countries during the course of the meeting, but represented the voices of 100 000 youth from all over the world, that had participated in giving input for the proposals presented via social media. The issues presented upon were Employment and Entrepreneurship, Financial Inclusion and Economic Citizenship Education. The calls for action were clear:
Introduce tax reduction for young entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship in the school curriculum.
Every child graduating from primary-school should have the right to have a bank account.
All school curriculum should include Economic Citizenship Education.
In response to these calls for action Mr. Draghi stated that youth are calling for action on the same points that Europe is calling for: transparency and access to financial services and bank accounts. He further stated his support of the issues that the youth addressed, and that he goal of the ECB; a truly European banking sector with a European banking union, could be a platform to implement youth financial inclusion.
We sincerely thank Mr. Draghi for his support and congratulate him on being awarded by the youth as ‘Financial Inclusion Champion’ in Europe and Central Asia.
© ECB/A. Böttcher
Earlier on Tuesday European and Central Asian leaders cold also engage with the youth on their ideas for their future as financially included, educated and entrepreneurial citizens of their countries. The discussions on three core matters: financial inclusion, financial education and youth entrepreneurship.
“We believe in ourselves, we want you to believe in us too. We want to be financially empowered, so please listen to our suggestions.”
They youth on the stage representing the young people of their countries told the audience that many of their peers still do not know that the subject of financial education exists, and that we need to change this.
“We need to know in order to be passionate, and we need to be passionate in order to be good at what we are doing.”
They also addressed that many children and youth have a lack of self-confidence and independent thinking, and that we need to empower them and build their confidence to make sure that they will believe in themselves and in their own decisions. One representative stated: “School have been made easy to go through without learning about real life skills”.
This was a point that they wanted to change. One suggestion to do this was to introduce internship to the school curriculum to make sure that the young people build their confidence and get to experience real life situations.
Another point that was made during the sessions was the fact that current financial education is focusing too much on macroeconomics, but is missing the private financial issues.
An issue that was raised is that there is currently little access to information about entrepreneurship and how to become an entrepreneur. There is also insufficient access to start up funds. One possible solution for this that was suggested by the youngsters was to engage more crowd funding to raise funds for young entrepreneurs and their endeavors. Another call for action form the youth was that the subject of entrepreneurship needs to be introduced to the school curriculum. This subject should focus on developing entrepreneurial skills and connect traditional subjects like math to an entrepreneurship setting.
The third topic of financial inclusion, that the youth had named ‘Re-shaping for inclusion’ focused on how to make youth more financially included and what they found necessary in order to make this happen. They stated that increasing financial inclusion for children is essential for them to be empowered. A point that was made by the youth presenting was that if they are able to spend at a certain age – why not be able to save at the same age?
Financial inclusion and education: the last mile
Mr. Panagiotis Strouzas, Head of the Financial Services Policy Division at the Directorate General Financial Stability of the ECB chaired this session, which brought together several themes and discussions from the past two days, including key themes during the Youth/policy-maker dialogue during the morning. Mr. Stouzas started by emphasizing the seminal role of financial literacy and inclusion for children and youth towards financial stability.
Mr. Bram Stoffele, Partnership and Certification Manager at CYFI, and youth representatives Mr. Kirill Akhmetov and Mr. Bogdan Baciu reflected on the state of child and youth financial inclusion in Europe and Central Asia. Observing that financial access levels differ greatly throughout the region and statistics for child and youth access are scarcely available, they argued that financial access needs to be complemented by independent financial capability training and quality standards for child and youth friendly banking products to ensure real financial inclusion.
They finished by presenting preliminary results of a CYFI survey of banking products and educational programs for children and youth which seems to corroborate the view that most child and youth banking accounts currently don’t fulfill these requirements, and financial education programs offered currently by financial institutions often lack a holistic perspective or sufficient safeguards for independence.
Ms. Tracey Bleakley, CEO of Pfeg (UK), shared the success story of child and youth financial education in the UK. Through the concerted efforts of the Personal Finance Education Group (Pfeg), schools and children, government, and the financial sector, financial education is now top on the political agenda. In February 2013 the government took the decision to integrate financial education in England’s national secondary education curriculum. Reflecting on next steps, Ms. Bleakley commented that ‘maybe we should get over ourselves’ and accept that children and youth already engage with the financial system in many ways (e.g. through prepaid mobile phones and internet transactions), and that their safe financial inclusion would be a logical step, provided parents can decide when their children can be given greater financial autonomy.
Mr. Hidde van der Veer, Aflatoun, concluded the session, emphasizing the importance of providing children and youth with a more holistic concept of economic citizenship education, moving beyond financial education only, including life skills and livelihoods education.
The final session of the day was devoted to Global Money Week, and how the countries of the region can join in on the celebrations of Global Money Week March 10-17 in 2014. The session started with an introduction by Mr. Dakic, Governor of the Central Bank of Montenegro. Mr. Dakic shared with the delegates how the Central Bank of Montenegro had celebrated Global Money Week of 2013 with activities of the ministry of education and the central bank such as visits to the money museum and workshops for students. He ended the introduction by stating:
“It is obvious that a lot of work is ahead of us, and there are still some steps to be taken to ensure financial inclusion – Global Money Week is one way of doing this. I strongly believe in its success.”
Luís Vas, Head of Financial Literacy Unit at the Bank of Portugal presented on the rationale for promoting both financial education and inclusion, and the importance of events such as Global Money Week in order to do this. He pointed out that Global Money Week and similar events is key for Bank of Portugal to help promote the importance of financial education and inclusion. Mr. Vas also shared what the Bank of Portugal had learned from arranging Global Money Week and similar events.
Philippe Racine, Founder and CSO, Ekomini Inc., was the second panelist to present, and addressed how technology can be used to engage children and youth to learn about money matters.
The Republic of Macedonia was the winner of the Global Money Week award for Europe and Central Asia of 2013. Ms. Kristina Nikolovska, Assistant to the Governor of the National Bank of the Republic of Macedonia, shared the story of how they celebrated Global Money Week, which went under the slogan “Learning By Playing”. She expressed why it is important for countries to engage in Global Money Week by pointing out that it is a way to rise the level of financial literacy among youth, while at the same time rise awareness of the importance of being financially literate and included. She further stated that Macedonia are committed to take part of Global Money Week 2014 and make it even bigger than 2013.
© ECB/A. Böttcher
During the last part of the session three youth representatives presented the ideas that they had come up with together with the other youth at the meeting for how they wanted to celebrate Global Money Week 2014. The ideas presented included involving universities all over the world in TEDx Talks, involve social media channels, having a school week dedicated all the subject to finance and money matters, entrepreneurial contests and challenges as well as a Global Money Week song and having children teach their parents about financial inclusion and education.