The Challenge

Youth face unique challenges as they navigate school-to-work pathways and their first job, including: costly family health emergencies and school fees, decisions to engage in risky behaviours, and a lack of knowledge about labour market opportunities.

This is particularly grave for young women, often subject to violence and exploitation, with limited rights and opportunities to build personal assets that can help them improve their social and economic standing.

While many LDCs and international organizations are working to reduce the severity of these challenges these approaches require long lead times inter alia related to enabling environments and resources. There is an urgent need for a sustainable model to build youth resilience, especially for young women, to successfully navigate school-to-work transitions, while adopting a capabilities approach to broaden youth employment opportunities. These approaches need to enhance youth engagement with their local economies and support their access to opportunities within their immediate financial ecosystem.

How We Are Helping?

The YouthStart Regional Pilot, UNCDF’s initiative established in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation, aims to increase access to financial services for low-income youth in sub-Saharan Africa. From 2010 to 2015, YouthStart developed approaches to offer youth (ages 12 – 24) affordable, relevant and accessible financial products coupled with complementary non-financial services in eight Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in Africa . YouthStart more than tripled the pilot’s original target of providing access to finance to 200,000 youth. Based on the recommendations of the evaluation, UNCDF is now expanding the programme to other LDC’s in Africa and Asia and deepening its intervention in the countries of the regional pilot. YouthStart Global’s objective is to increase the number of youth engaged in entrepreneurship, decent employment, school, or further education and training to support Sustainable Development Goals 1, 5 and 8.

What We Will Do Next?

YouthStart Global’s goal is to increase the number of youth engaged in entrepreneurship, decent employment, school, or further education and training. It will contribute to the achievement of the SDGs in particular the Goal of Ending Poverty (Goal 1), the goal Goal of achieving Achieving Gender Eequality and Empower all Women and Girls (Ggoal 5); and the Goal of Promoting Inclusive and sustainable Economic Growth, Full and Productive Employment and Decent Work for All (goal Goal 8).

The programme will increase the number of youth who use integrated services and complementary non-financial services, to better manage school-to-work transitions and access economic opportunities.

YouthStart by the Numbers


New Young


Saved with FSPs


Loaned to Young


Trained through
FinEd Programmes

stories from the field

Our Team

Dakar, Senegal

Maria Perdomo

YouthStart Programme Manager

Ata Cissé

Technical Specialist