Adjo Tapoayi is a robust 20-year-old business woman who does not let bad luck bring her down. As a YouthStart client at Faîtière des Unités Coopératives d’Epargne et de Crédit (FUCEC) Togo, she has been able to turn her life and business around thanks in part to the financial-literacy training and loan provided by FUCEC. ”I joined FUCEC almost two years ago and learned how to manage my money and gradually meet my goal of expanding my small business.”
When she first joined FUCEC, Adjo was under the impression she could acquire a large loan for her business. “I thought by becoming a member I could get a loan for millions of CFA to start a big business. But I was wrong; I instead learned how to grow my business little by little, separate my personal finances from my business and save money to support myself and my family.” Adjo was able to acquire a loan for CFA 60,000 (US$120) for her shop.
In 2013, Adjo fell ill and was unable to work for several weeks. In addition, a large fire at the Lomé market destroyed all of Adjo’s merchandise. Yet, these challenges did not bring her down: she had already paid off close to half her loan and was able to cope with the health emergency with her own savings. She had saved on a daily basis CFA 500 for over a year. “The loan provided me with the resources I needed to continue with my business while the training from FUCEC taught me how to save, manage my money and plan for the unexpected. Without these, I would have been lost after the fire and my illness.”
Adjo’s story highlights the importance of providing youth with relevant services to support their business and personal endeavours. Although financial service providers continue to be apprehensive of youths’ ability to repay loans, YouthStart partners have found that youth are not only able to pay off debts but they are paying them back at a rate equivalent to or better than adult creditors. YouthStart partners have granted over $6 million in loans with an average portfolio at risk as of 30 days (PAR30) between 2 percent and 5 percent.
Stories from youth like Adjo allow us all to deepen our understanding of youths’ capabilities and needs. As such, continued support for these youth will require their access to relevant financial products and services to accompany their entrepreneurial endeavours and build their financial capability to help them transition at the right time from school to work. As a United Nations agency dedicated to identifying and supporting linkages to solve challenges of the real economy, the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) is dedicated to expanding systems that will enable YouthStart and its partners to go beyond financial inclusion and focus on creating opportunities for youth, which can positively affect the employment spectrum of tomorrow’s future.