Today is the last day of the 3rd Annual Child & Youth Finance International (CYFI) Regional Meeting for Africa. Held at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the meeting brought together Africa’s finest policy makers, educators, research and academic institutions, financial service providers, as well as representatives from various government ministries. The main objective of the meeting is to develop a common African position on the advancement of a unified financial education and inclusion plan of action for children and youth across the continent.
During a variety of workshops and plenary sessions it was concluded that a great deal of innovation and action is needed to create an economically active and responsible youth population by addressing the various barriers to youth financial inclusion in Africa. The development and prosperity throughout Africa must be framed around the large, and very dynamic, youth population. The growing youth population is a unique resource for several African countries; youth must be given the attention they deserve as they are essential for social and economic stability and growth.
Integrated African Policy for Child and Youth Financial Inclusion
At the close of the meeting a policy paper pledging for an integrated African Policy for Child and Youth Financial Inclusion to be part of Agenda 2063 was announced. This policy paper details the recommendations needed for “a global strategy to optimize use of Africa’s resources for the benefit of all Africans” for an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa.
African leaders must develop and pursue national financial programs and strategies for children and youth with the objectives of ensuring that every child and youth in Africa has access to safe financial services, quality Economic Citizenship Education, and the opportunity to attain a sustainable livelihood.
Providing young people with financial services, which include an educational component, enhances a young person’s ability to make their own economic decisions and escape the cycle of poverty. Such access to appropriate financial services allows young people in increase their awareness of their social and economic rights and their ability to build assets and invest in their own future.
CYFI 3rd Annual Regional Meeting for Africa Key Recommendations
Outlined below are the 4 main recommendations highlighted throughout the meeting. Please read the Recommendations and Action Points document for a full overview of the concrete and necessary action plans that African policymakers should lead and implement at national level while engaging the various stakeholders and practitioners, and, of course, children and youth.
By focusing on and taking the necessary steps to turn these recommendations into a reality, the region at large will benefit from such interventions, as a new generation of financially capable young people grows up to be responsible economic citizens.
Key Recommendations for every African State/Country
- To celebrate nationally and integrate Global Money Week in the public national activities’ calendar
- To integrate Economic Citizenship Education into the national curricula starting from primary school; and non-formal economic citizenship education should be provided for out-of-school children and youth
- To ensure that all children and youth, starting from primary school, have access to appropriate child and youth-friendly banking products and services such as savings accounts.
- To support young entrepreneurs in Africa by providing connections, education and access to financial resources for developing their enterprises.
Global Money Week (GMW) is a worldwide celebration intended to empower the next generation of financial actors to be confident, responsible and skilled economic citizens. During this week various worldwide activities will be held to engage children, youth and their communities to learn about how to save, gaining employment, and creating livelihoods.
The participation of each African country brings the world one step closer to ensuring that every child will have access to financial services, basic financial awareness, a reliable source of income and the will to save. In order for children and youth to have a safe tomorrow, they should begin to save today.
In the CYFI Global Youth Survey, nearly 85% of respondents http://childfinanceinternational.org/resources/publications/2014-cyfi-global-youth-survey.pdf felt Economic Citizenship Education (ECE) should be learned in school. This profound percentage should be taken forward to ensure that ECE is taken on in national curricula, and is not left as a “family item”. Children and youth must be given a standard learning format to ensure that they are provided with all of the necessary ECE knowledge to make wise financial decisions and act as economic citizens.
Furthermore, empowering all children and youth, both in and out-of-school, must also be a priority for national policymakers. According to UNESCO in 2010, sub-Saharan Africa was the second region counting the highest number of out-of-school lower secondary school children (22 million). Research has shown that depriving children of opportunities at a young age, such as education, have been associated with a well-catalogued variety of negative outcomes, including social and mental well-being. Financial inclusion towards social and individual empowerment, need to be inclusive and be devoted to all children and youth.
Africa has the lowest saving-account penetration rate for youth in the world, equal to 12% http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/documents/youth/fact-sheets/youth-financial-inclusion.pdf. Cultural barriers, legal restrictions, inadequate child and youth friendly financial services, long distance to access points, low education, unemployment, high transaction costs and negative stereotypes about youth are among the main challenges for youth being financially included in Africa. Legal and regulatory barriers create also significant obstacles for the youth to access to financial services suiting their needs. Such barriers impact the prosperity of policies and practices for the economic and financial empowerment of young Africans.
Various research and studies have shown that unemployed persons – particularly young persons – are unhappier, more likely to experience a range of health issues, and face difficulties in integrating back into the labor market place . While the youth unemployment rate in Africa hovers around 20%, data collected from the 2014 CYFI Global Youth Survey points out that Africa is undoubtedly the leading region for numbers of young entrepreneurs.
The promotion of youth entrepreneurship simultaneously supports the creation of job opportunities, economic growth and development within local, regional and global communities.