Choosing a YouthStart partner to highlight in our quarterly newsletter becomes a tougher challenge when each partner continues to work so impressively. All of our partner financial institutions are doing fantastic work in reaching their targets, as our results show.
Nevertheless, Amhara Credit and Savings Institution (ACSI) in Ethiopia deserves special attention this time as the institution exceeded its targets in terms of uptake of youth services and meeting the percentage of young women in its portfolio.
After emerging from a former NGO in 1995, ACSI has become one of the largest FSPs in Ethiopia. It began operations in a very challenging environment, raddled with poor infrastructure, to provide low interest rates to very poor people in remote rural areas. Today, ACSI services almost 2.5 million clients through 300 branches in the Amhara and Addis Ababa regions.
Over the past year, ACSI made considerable effort to transform into a savings-led FSP. This transformation resulted in very positive impacts for the youth programme called Raey accounts. The story of Yitayish is one of many examples of the success of the Raey accounts.
The young woman pictured, now 24 years old, opened a savings account with ACSI three years ago. Today, Yitayish proudly runs her own restaurant and is looking to expand her business. As she explains, “I had saved more than US$1,500 and decided to reinvest it in my restaurant. I bought a pool table to increase my income because I want to expand my restaurant into a small hotel. If I had my money at home, it would be tempted to spend it on small things and it would gradually disappear. It is easier for me to keep a budget with a savings account. If other people in the neighbourhood need money, I can lend it to them, and that is a good feeling. I am happy.”
Financial education is one of the key components of the success of the Raey accounts. In order to provide this service effectively, ACSI built partnerships with vocational schools in the regions. In each school, the FSP identified a tutor to act as a savings ambassador who promotes and encourages saving among students. By the end of 2013, more than 144,000 youth in the Amhara region had participated in financial-education sessions offered by ACSI.
During the financial-education sessions, the ambassador and ACSI staff not only promote savings but also explain the different loan products available to youth at the FSP. As a result, participation in the savings programme has attracted some 37,000 youth to apply for a loan.
With 80 percent of savers from rural areas and 60 percent composed of female clients, ACSI has proven to be very successful in reaching the most vulnerable in the Amhara region. Many challenges still lie ahead for the FSP but, here at YouthStart, we are confident ACSI has the capacity to overcome said challenges and will continue building on the successes of 2013 for an even more impressive 2014.