Before Gashaw Belaye learned about Amhara Credit and Saving Institution (ACSI) – one of the financial service providers partnering with UNCDF’s YouthStart programme – he was unsure about the services it offered, and he mistrusted banks in general. A good friend convinced him to sit in on an ACSI training session, just to hear what these bankers said. “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 barbershop. Through the financial-literacy sessions offered by ACSI, Gashaw made his business goals a reality.
“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, not only is he one of the lead youth ambassadors in the Bahir Dar region of Ethiopia, but he also has saved enough money to hire four young employees—each of whom has a savings account with ACSI – to work in his barbershop.
This example is emblematic of YouthStart’s approach, which focuses on access to finance coupled with financial-literacy training. It sees this twin approach as critical for young people’s overall economic development.
As of December 2014, YouthStart’s ten partners had granted access to savings accounts to 515,000 young people (of which 46 percent are young women); trained over 500,000 youth (54 percent young women) in financial education across eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa; and provided loans to 72,000 young entrepreneurs. These young clients have accumulated US$14.2 million in savings, while the young entrepreneurs accessed US$7.3 million in loans to either start up or expand their own business.