UNCDF and The MasterCard Foundation Release New Paper on Policy Opportunities and Constraints to Access Youth Financial Services

  • March 29, 2012

  • New York, USA

The UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and The MasterCard Foundation today released a new policy paper titled, Policy Opportunities and Constraints to Access Youth Financial Services.

The paper identifies barriers that limit young people’s access to financial services and provides recommendations on how governments, policy makers and regulators can address these barriers. It was launched during YouthStart’s pre-summit event held at the Child and Youth Finance International Summit. The Summit is the first event to bring together children, youth and senior level representatives from across various sectors on the topic of financial access and education for children and youth.

“Young people living in poverty face major barriers to access appropriate financial services, particularly savings,” said Reeta Roy, President and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation. “This paper is a resource for understanding how initiatives at the macro level can mainstream youth financial services.”

The current global youth population of 1.2 billion is the largest in history. Eighty-five percent of young people live in developing countries. Given the high levels of youth unemployment and limited economic opportunities available to them, governments are increasingly looking for proactive approaches to help young people realize their full economic potential.

“Increased access to financial services and financial education can enable young people to become economically active members of their households and communities,” said David Morrison, UNCDF Executive Secretary. “Yet youth face many barriers in accessing financial services. The public policy opportunity — and imperative — is evident. ”

YouthStart’s new policy paper identifies three main barriers that limit access and use of youth financial services - restrictions in the legal and regulatory environment; inappropriate and inaccessible financial products offered by financial service providers and; poor financial capabilities of youth. Based on insights from YouthStart and other initiatives around the world, the paper makes recommendations to policy makers and regulators that could significantly advance financial inclusion for young people. It also calls for a multi-stakeholder and coordinated approach that engages government institutions (including policy makers and regulators), financial service providers, youth service organizations, other youth stakeholders (such as schools), as well as youth themselves.

Policy Opportunities and Constraints to Access Youth Financial Services includes recommendations such as:

  • Regulatory environments that protect rights of young people, establish and enforce industry standards and ensure initiatives are aligned with national youth policies.
  • Policies that support development of youth-friendly products and delivery channels.
  • National strategies for financial education and curriculums that integrate financial education and entrepreneurship.

The paper also presents insights and lessons learned from YouthStart, a UNCDF programme in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation that aims to reach 200,000 youth in Sub-Saharan Africa with demand-driven financial services and non-financial services, in particular savings and financial education, by 2014. To date, US$7.2 million has been awarded to 10 FSPs, of which US$1.3 million has been disbursed, to design, deliver and scale up demand-driven youth financial services and youth-centric programmes in partnership with youth service organizations.


The MasterCard Foundation advances microfinance and youth learning to promote financial inclusion and prosperity. Through collaboration with committed partners in 48 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 Foundation was established through the generosity of MasterCard Worldwide at the time of the company’s initial public offering in 2006. For more information, 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

To learn more about YouthStart, please visit