Much of the news coming out of Zimbabwe in recent years has focused on the challenging financial and economic environment facing the country. A recent legacy of runaway inflation, rising trade deficits and poor financial liquidity has severely hampered economic growth and deflated public confidence in the formal financial sector. Despite these setbacks, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) released an ambitious National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) in 2016, aiming to extend financial services to 90% of the population by 2020. The NFIS makes explicit reference to children and youth as a key target group, emphasizing the importance of building financial capability of the next generation of Zimbabweans.
In an effort to accelerate this aspect of the NFIS, RBZ partnered with CYFI and the People's Own Savings Bank (POSB) to carry out a two-day Product Development Workshop and National Stakeholder Gathering in Harare on 19-20 October. With participation from Aflatoun International, FinMark Trust and the World Bank Group, the workshop covered a variety of topics relevant to the provision of financial services and financial education to children and youth in Zimbabwe. Sessions included those on the impacts of financial inclusion and education on young people, the business case for youth financial services, the financial needs and wants of children and youth, regulatory solutions to increase youth financial inclusion and curriculum integration models for social and financial education.Participants also had the opportunity to learn from the experiences of other government authorities and financial literacy champions in the country, with guest speakers from the Bank of Zambia, the Reserve Bank of Malawi and the Banking Association of South Africa.
The workshop benefited from having such a diverse set of relevant stakeholders in attendance, all interested and engaged in various aspects of the NFIS. This included representatives from the RBZ, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Education, the Zimbabwean Youth Council, commercial banks, microfinance institutions, academics and non-government organizations. The conference concluded with the participants breaking into thematic groups to further discuss challenges and solutions for the regulatory environment, financial service provision and the expansion of quality financial education throughout the country. Draft action plans were outlined, indicating the resources needed and roles and responsibilities required to carry out the desired initiatives.