UNCDF-MasterCard Foundation Announce Recipients of $6.9 million YouthStart's Investment in Innovation and Delivery of Financial Services

  • January 10, 2012

  • New York, USA

The MasterCard Foundation and the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) today announced the ten institutions that have been selected and awarded a total of $6.9 million to develop new financial services products and delivery channels for youth.

The announcement, part of the UNCDF-MasterCard Foundation YouthStart initiative, will help the selected institutions increase access to financial services for 200,000 low-income youth in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2014. YouthStart was catalyzed by a four year, $12 million contribution from The MasterCard Foundation.

"Enabling disadvantaged youth to accumulate savings and assets early in life is linked to their ability to access to better education, greater health services, new skills and economic opportunities," said Reeta Roy, President and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation. "The selection of these ten financial institutions is the first step towards opening up pathways for 200,000 Sub-Saharan African youth, half of whom will be girls and young women, to gain access to financial services."

For this project, seventy financial service providers from 14 different countries in Sub-Saharan Africa were invited to submit applications to conduct market research related to youth focused financial services.

"Young people require access to financial services that meet their unique needs," said David Morrison, UNCDF Executive Secretary. "Yet we recognize that very few Financial Service Providers understand the nuances and peculiarities of serving the youth market, and that they often know even less about youth-serving organizations with whom they might partner to understand how to target and design products for youth. This is why YouthStart is so important."

In addition to announcing the selection of the financial institutions, YouthStart also released the paper 'Listening to Youth: Findings and Recommendations from Nine Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa on Market Research to Design Financial and Non-Financial Services for Youth.'

"Listening to Youth" provides:

  • Recommendations on data selection and collection methods for Financial Service Providers seeking to develop youth financial and non-financial services ;
  • Key findings of market research conducted by 18 financial service providers;
  • Summaries of the findings of four financial service providers that followed best practices in their research.

In 2010, UNCDF and The MasterCard Foundation launched YouthStart- a partnership that will increase access to financial and non-financial services for 200,000 low-income youth in Sub-Saharan Africa by December 2014. With a specific emphasis on savings, YouthStart is a performance-based program that will identify and build the capacity of up to 12 financial institutions to pilot and roll out sustainable financial and non-financial services tailored to young people. This project was catalyzed by a five year, $12 million contribution from The MasterCard Foundation.

To learn more about the program, visit


The MasterCard Foundation advances microfinance and youth learning to promote financial inclusion and prosperity. Through collaboration with committed partners in 46 countries, The MasterCard Foundation is helping people living in poverty to access opportunities to learn and prosper. An independent, private foundation based in Toronto, Canada, The MasterCard Foundation was established through the generosity of MasterCard Worldwide at the time of the company's initial public offering in 2006. For more information, please visit

UNCDF is the UN's capital investment agency for the world's 48 least developed countries. It creates new opportunities for poor people and their communities by increasing access to microfinance and investment capital. UNCDF focuses on Africa and the poorest countries of Asia, with a special commitment to countries emerging from conflict or crisis. It provides seed capital – grants and loans – and technical support to help microfinance institutions reach more poor households and small businesses, and local governments finance the capital investments – water systems, feeder roads, schools, irrigation schemes – that will improve poor peoples' lives. UNCDF programmes help to empower women, and are designed to catalyze larger capital flows from the private sector, national governments and development partners, for maximum impact toward the Millennium Development Goals. For more information, see