Before Gashaw Belaye learned about Amhara Credit and Saving Institution (ACSI), he was unsure about the services it offered, as he mistrusted banks in general. A good friend convinced him to sit in on an ACSI training session, just to find out what these bankers wanted. ”I did not know what to expect. But I am so glad I went because my life has changed since that very first session.”
Gashaw was 21 years old then and worked for a barber. He had no savings at the time yet dreamed of owning his own barber shop. Through the financial-literacy sessions offered by ACSI, Gashaw made his business goals a reality by learning how to save money each day. “Through the training, I learned how to calculate the amount of money I spend on items such as sweet snacks, extra airtime and other things, and to make and follow a saving plan to achieve my goal of opening my own shop. I saved money every day for a year from not buying these items and instead used these savings to open my own shop.”
Gashaw enjoyed the courses so much that he signed up to become a youth ambassador for ACSI. After three years, this young man is not only one of the lead youth ambassadors in the Bahir Dar region, he has also saved enough money to open his own barber shop where he hired four young employees—each of whom have their own savings account with ACSI.
YouthStart believes access to finance coupled with financial-literacy training is critical for young people’s overall development. YouthStart’s 10 partners have trained over 437,500 youth across eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa, providing them with training designed to complement their entrepreneurial endeavours while instilling financial literacy to help them create sustainable businesses.
Gashaw’s ability to create his own business and employment opportunities for several youth is an indication of the importance of access to financial and non-financial services in helping youth. His story is a testament to how financial-literacy training coupled with relevant, accessible and affordable financial services for youth can lead to greater economic opportunities and preparation to become financially literate adults. It is particularly crucial in a region such as sub-Saharan Africa where the formal sector is unable to absorb millions of new job entrants each year.