CYFI had the pleasure of hosting the panel at the 18th Microcredit Summit in Abu Dhabi on Reshaping the Future of Youth Finance and Economic Citizenship. The panel was held during Global Money Week (GMW) 2016 with CYFI and the Microcredit Summit Campaign forming a strategic media partnership to promote both the Summit and GMW during the week of March 14-18th.
The panel consisted of Ms. Essma ben Hamida, Executive Director of Enda-Inter Arabe in Tunisia, Mr. Tim Nourse, President of Making Cents International and Dr. Khaled Algazawi, CEO of Ebdaa Microfinance Bank in Bahrain. Given the location of the Summit, and the background of the majority of the panelists and participants, the session focused on new frontiers in youth microfinance within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
The panelists shared many of challenges they face in scaling their operations and reaching youth with a wider range of financial and non-financial services such as financial education, business management and career counselling. They also hi-lighted a need to more effectively serve young people aged 15-25, as this is recognized as a critical age cohort for economic and social stability in the region. Stories were shared of the countless unemployed and under employed MENA youth idling away their time in cafes, susceptible to the allure of criminal activity or risky migration channels to Europe.
Youth at the Center of Microfinance Innovation
In an effort to make a greater difference in the lives of youth, and to encourage them to seek sustainable livelihoods as engaged economic citizens, microfinance institutions (MFIs) in the region are taking more innovative approaches in reaching out to young clients. Harnessing technological advancements in mobile banking and e-learning was one way to bring financial and non-financial services into the hands of youth through a favourable digital medium. Forming creative partnerships with education providers and civil society organizations also helped MFIs offer integrated financial and educational services that were more relevant and tailored to the needs of their youth clientele. It also allowed them to more easily reach younger, poorer and more isolated segments of the youth population.
The panel also highlighted the important role of religious leaders and civil society organizations in collaborating with MFIs in building economic citizenship amongst young people by instilling a greater belief in themselves and identifying positive ways in which they can support themselves and make a difference in their community. Through the accumulation of financial and social assets, and with the development of essential financial and entrepreneurial skills, young people can take greater control of their futures and contribute more effectively to their families and to society at large. MFIs play an important role in this process, especially in a region affected by poverty, unemployment, conflict and insurgency.