Youth face unique challenges as they navigate school-to-work transitions. In much of Least Developed Countries (LDCs), high youth unemployment, significant proportions of working poor in vulnerable employment, and economic disengagement run the risk of creating disaffection, driving migration, inciting social unrest, and slowing progress towards development goals.
As youth transition from childhood to adulthood, they are faced with several constraints that limit their potential for finding their own pathways to productive economic opportunities: skills gap, limited access to finance, and lack of youth friendly policies and programmes, are only a few. This is particularly grave for young women and girls, 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.
In order to overcome these challenges, governments are increasingly looking for practical approaches to help young people realize their full economic potential. In this context, access to financial assets and resources is gaining attention as a key contributing factor of youth’s economic empowerment. There is an urgent need for a sustainable model to build youth resilience, in particular 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. Key capabilities and factors that support transitions include financial capability and other social services that support youth economic inclusion.
How are we helping?
YouthStart aims to increase access to financial services for low-income youth in sub-Saharan Africa, by developing approaches to offer youth tailored financial and non-financial services. YouthStart more than tripled the pilot’s original target of providing access to finance to 200,000 youth. This innovative programme has reached 822,000 youth (43% female) by providing support to ten financial service providers across eight countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to design and develop financial and non-financial services for youth. These young clients have accumulated over US$22 million in savings while the outstanding loan portfolio to young entrepreneurs is US$29 million.