UNCDF YouthStart Programme Doubles its Objective to Provide Young People Access to Financial Services

  • December 10, 2015

  • Dakar, Senegal

Increasing access to financial and non-financial services by young people in developing countries has become an important priority for financial inclusion practitioners in recent years.

In response, UNCDF developed a regional programme — YouthStart — to pilot approaches by financial service providers to develop affordable, relevant and accessible financial products for young people in eight Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in Africa.

YouthStart, an initiative supported by The MasterCard Foundation, was launched in 2010 and has been recently evaluated.

The evaluation, conducted by Microfinanza Srl and Microfinanza Rating Srl, assessed the relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, and sustainability of the programme, particularly in regards to reaching its intended objectives and drawing out recommended practices and lessons learned to help inform its expansion.

The main findings from the evaluation found that YouthStart has performed effectively by increasing both the institutional capacity of its partner Financial Service Providers (FSPs) and youth’s access to appropriate financial and non‐financial services.

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$14.8 million in savings, while the young entrepreneurs accessed US$7.3 million in loans to either start up or expand their own business.

The evaluation also noted that YouthStart was successful in institutionalizing youth products in 9 out of 10 partner institutions, and that the programme had successfully reached young people, with the majority of youth clients sampled “perceiving YouthStart’s savings and credit products, as well as financial literacy training, to have positively influenced their situations/lives, primarily in terms of increased financial capabilities and capacities to generate some income but also in the form of greater independence and/or stronger self esteem.”

With a view to expanding of the programme to other countries and regions, the evaluation made the following recommendations:

  • UNCDF should consider adopting a more holistic approach in programming of this type with a set of actions dedicated to foster the demand for youth financial products (and non-financial services) as well as promote a conducive national context;
  • Encourage the development of partnerships between FSPs with other youth initiatives, external business development services providers, and/or national/regional education and technical training systems;
  • The next phase of YouthStart should include a stronger focus on youth credit products.

“The YouthStart Programme has been very successful in its implementation,” said John Tucker, Deputy Director of the UNCDF Inclusive Finance Practice Area. “UNCDF is committed to improving the programme for its next phase and has already taken steps to develop a more holistic approach to the challenges faced by youth — specifically in terms of linking financial services and products to relevant trainings and services for youth which will help them tap into economic opportunities.“

UNCDF has designed the next phase of the programme, YouthStart Global, to employ a consortium approach in which FSPs will be partnering with youth serving organizations including local and international NGOs, Technical and Vocational Education and Training Support (TVETs) etc. to provide financial and nonfinancial services to youth including entrepreneurship training. This new approach will not only allow youth to access more complimentary services, but it will also place FSPs in a better position to scale up credit products for youth.
For more information, please see the full evaluation report.


UNCDF is the UN’s capital investment agency and a special measure for the world’s 48 least developed countries. UNCDF uses its capital mandate to help LDCs pursue inclusive growth. UNCDF’s last mile financing models help eradicate poverty, mobilizing public and private resources, especially at the domestic level, which benefit poor people, small businesses, and under-served regions. These models focus on those areas where available resources for development are scarcest; where market failures are most pronounced; and where benefits from national growth tend to leave people excluded. UNCDF does this in two ways. First, by showing how localized public finance - through fiscal decentralization, innovations in municipal finance, and structured project finance - can drive public/private funding for essential infrastructure and services which underpins local economic expansion. Second, we support savings-led financial inclusion which expands the opportunities for poor individuals and households and small businesses to participate in the local economy, providing them with the tools they need to better manage their financial lives, plan for the future, and climb out of poverty. For more information, visit

About YouthStart

YouthStart, a 4.5 year UNCDF programme funded by The MasterCard Foundation, aims to bring access to finance to 200,000 young people and contribute to solving the youth employment challenge in Sub-Saharan Africa. YouthStart helps to design, test and scale up sustainable services tailored to the needs of young people, while helping to create an enabling regulatory environment for young people to access the right financial and other services they need to make sound financial decisions, build a strong asset base, and create sustainable livelihoods for themselves. For more information, visit

About The MasterCard Foundation

The MasterCard Foundation advances microfinance and youth learning to promote financial inclusion and prosperity. Through collaboration with committed partners in 48 countries, The MasterCard Foundation is helping people living in poverty to access opportunities to learn and prosper. An independent, private foundation based in Toronto, Canada, it was established through the generosity of MasterCard Worldwide at the time of the company’s initial public offering in 2006. For more information, visit