New Research Study Outlines Benefits of Savings Accounts for Young People in Africa

The UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) today released a new publication during the first of eight in-country workshops on YouthStart, the four-year, eight-country project on youth and savings opportunities in Africa, developed in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation. The paper, Assessment of the Effects and Behavioural Changes of Financial and Non-Financial Services on Youth, outlines lessons learned on the replicability and sustainability of youth savings accounts now that the project has come to a close.

Through a financial diaries study of two YouthStart partners (FUCEC in Togo and ACSI in Ethiopia), the paper examines changes in youth financial behaviour observed through their access to and use of financial and non-financial services offered by these partners.  More specifically, the paper explores the potential effects of the programme on three financial capability indicators:

  • Money management
  • Use of financial services
  • Planning ahead

The main findings of the study include the following:

  • Money management: Participants in the programme nearly doubled the amount of their net average income (average income minus average expenses) compared with youth in the control group in Togo. In Ethiopia, net average income more than doubled compared with that of youth in the control group. The study concluded that this may have been due to participation by the treatment group in financial education sessions that promoted better money management strategies


  • Use of financial services: Participants in both countries saved funds through their YouthStart account for nearly 50% of the time during the research period, followed by other informal means as compared to the control group in both countries who saved mainly through informal options. Participation in the YouthStart programme correlated with an increased frequency of deposits across all savings mechanisms, particularly in the YouthStart account. It also correlated to a higher ratio of number of deposits to withdrawals across all savings mechanisms and to the YS account.

Participation in the YouthStart programme led to an increase in the value of savings deposits over time and a surplus as youth deposit more than they withdraw across all savings mechanisms. YouthStart participants adopted the practices of saving regularly, and saving in a secure place. They also adopted the practice of taking as few loans as possible and evaluating the cost of the loan.

  • Planning ahead: Participation in the YouthStart programme encouraged youth to plan ahead for their future. YouthStart participants in both countries were able to develop a financial plan and set and achieve savings goals. They claimed that the financial education sessions they received as part of the programme and support from their parents were instrumental. YouthStart participants in both countries were also more confident about their future, less stressed and happier overall than non-programme participants. Participation in the programme in Ethiopia led the accumulation of assets.

This publication on the Assessment of the Effects and Behavioural Changes of Financial and Non-Financial Services on Youth  can be downloaded at