Making Financial Services and Training Work for Young People
On May 21st and 22nd, we participated in the Investing in African Youth: Making Financial Services and Training Work conference in Dakar, Senegal. Hosted by Plan Canada, the conference addressed issues affecting young people in the microfinance sector, connected people working in youth financial services – including young people themselves – and offered an opportunity to share early learnings from various programs. About 100 attendees, many from Plan International and its affiliates, came together to focus on three themes: youth financial services, gender equality and youth empowerment. A number of the presenters included our Foundation’s partners working in youth financial services: BRAC, CYFI, UNCDF YouthStart, PAMECAS BANK representatives, Aflatoun, Freedom from Hunger and Plan International’s country staff and implementing partners.
There was a lot of energy around learning and understanding the successes and challenges of each others’ projects. Young people from PLAN’s Youth Advisory Board actively participated in all discussions and made presentations about their experiences. Towards the end of the conference, they led an interactive “life skills” session, which they conduct regularly at the end of Youth Savings and Loan group meetings. This offered an opportunity for attendees to truly experience the spirit of a youth savings group for themselves.
The following are highlights of important learnings and take-aways from the conference:
- Participants affirmed that financial inclusion for young people needs to address access, financial capability and livelihood options, including both entrepreneurship and other employment.
- There was a strong call for concerted investment, policy and advocacy, and regulatory change in the area of youth economic empowerment and financial access.
- A representative from The Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs of Senegal, who opened the conference, placed youth financial access within the larger framework of priorities in the financial sector. The Ministry’s involvement was well received by participants and demonstrated a real commitment by the government of Senegal to support and further youth financial services.
- There was strong interest in continuing to learn about different models for offering youth financial services and about making the business case for various approaches. While several groups presented initial learnings, many expressed a desire for more data. A number of organizations who presented will be publishing reports in the next three to four months that will reflect the latest monitoring and evaluation results from their projects.
- Financial diaries – an evaluation method in which practitioners meet regularly with young people who are learning to save and are tracking how they spend their money – are showing positive results on how saving groups are changing young people’s attitudes about their ability to save.
- A key challenge, as shared by Plan, is recruitment and retention of enough high-quality community volunteers to start and lead new youth savings and loan groups.
- Another challenge raised is finding consistent measurements across different projects that can evaluate overall impact in the sector and policy-level support from local governments.
The conference was a great opportunity to learn from our partners and others in the youth financial services space. We were excited to participate and came out with a richer understanding of how to make youth financial services more effective and impactful for young people.