YouthStart: A promising example for achieving youth economic empowerment

  • January 28, 2013

  • Dakar, Senegal

The UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) launched YouthStart with the support of The MasterCard Foundation in 2010. YouthStart supports strong financial service providers (FSPs) in developing, piloting and rolling out youth-focused financial products, especially savings, and non-financial services (NFS) such as financial literacy or reproductive health education.

Through YouthStart, UNCDF aims to increase financial inclusion to at least 200,000 youth, between 12 and 25 years of age, and to demonstrate that (a) when accessing the right combination of financial and non-financial services, youth -young women and girls in particular- are better equipped to make more informed financial decisions, build financial (e.g. savings), social (e.g. social networks) and human assets (e.g. skills and knowledge) for their futures and create sustainable livelihoods; and (b) youth financial services (YFS) contribute to increasing outreach and sustainability of FSPs over time.

As of December 2012, YouthStart has awarded US$7.8 million (of which US$2.5 million have been disbursed) to 10 FSPs in 8 different countries in Africa. Through their pilot tests, FSPs supported by YouthStart have provided financial services to 40,308 youth, and financial education to close to 30,000 youth (of which 41% are young women and girls). This early and promising outreach figures, positions UNCDF to almost double the programme’s initial outreach projections.

In an effort to highlight key lessons learned of the FSPs participating in YouthStart, in 2012 UNCDF published 2 case studies, for the benefit of other financial service providers and organizations interested in targeting youth.

The first case study underlines the importance of market segmentation when it comes to serve the youth market, and it features the experience of Uganda Finance Trust (UFT) in delivering age appropriate financial and non-financial services. The second case study, presents the main achievements and challenges PEACE, another FSP supported by YouthStart, had in the process of developing youth offerings, in particular for young women and girls, and implementing a pilot test before scaling up.

The UFT case study is a contribution of UNCDF to “Youth Financial Inclusion: Promising examples for achieving youth economic empowerment” a publication of the European Microfinance Platform launched in November 2012 during the European Microfinance week in Luxembourg.

It can be accessed at or as a stand-alone case study at The PEACE case study was launched at the Citi Foundation Financial Education Summit in Manila in December 2012 and can be accessed at