YouthStart aims to increase

Access to Financial Services for Youth

in the world’s least developed countries

Youth Financial Inclusion to

Better Manage School-to-work Transitions

and Access Economic Opportunities

YouthStart supports the design of

Youth-tailored Products

to better respond to the needs of youth

YouthStart supports actions to

Develop Policies and Regulatory Frameworks

for greater economic opportunities for youth

About YouthStart

The Challenge

The youth employment crisis is a global development priority. The youth demographic ‘bulge’ (a staggering 3 billion people under the age of 25, with 1.2 billion of them aged 15–24), a stubbornly high youth unemployment rate, a significant proportion of the working poor in vulnerable employment, and a high level of economic disengagement, together can create disaffection, drive migration, incite social unrest and slow progress towards development goals.

The least developed countries are particularly vulnerable to the combined effects of the youth demographic bulge and the high youth unemployment rate, which is disproportionately elevated compared to the rate of other age groups. In Africa, three out of five young people are unemployed, while in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, the youth unemployment rate is six times that of adults. Available data suggest that, even during periods of economic growth, many economies have failed to absorb large youth populations in their labour markets and have hence fallen short of translating growth into greater economic opportunities for youth.

Young people account for an estimated 35 percent of the total worldwide unemployed. Unemployment rates of young women are significantly higher than those of young men, and the gender gap in the rate of young people not in employment, education or training (NEET) is even wider. Globally, the NEET rate for females is 34.4 percent, compared to 9.8 percent for males. This phenomenon is even more acute in low-income countries. Disengaged NEET youth are at risk of contributing to social unrest or radicalization and being excluded from economic opportunities (e.g., participating in the economy as employees, subsistence-entrepreneurs or opportunity-entrepreneurs).

In this context, access to financial assets and resources is gaining attention as a key contributing factor of youth’s economic empowerment. There is an urgent need for a sustainable model to build youth's resilience, in particular for young women, to successfully navigate school-to-work transitions, while adopting a capabilities approach to broaden youth employment opportunities. These pathways will enhance youth engagement with their local economies and support their access to opportunities within their immediate financial ecosystem.

How are we helping?

Since 2010, UNCDF has played a strong role in market development in the digital finance space and has significantly contributed to increasing access to finance for youth.

YouthStart was the first initiative of UNCDF specifically targeting youth (aged 12-24). Thanks to the support of MasterCard Foundation from 2010 to 2015, over 940,000 young people (47 percent women) have accessed financial and complementary non-financial services. Young people have saved over US$24 million with financial service providers. Over 390,000 young entrepreneurs have accessed US$76 million in loans.

The Programme has supported 10 financial institutions in 8 African countries, namely:

Burkina Faso

Democratic Republic of Congo







If you want to know more of what UNCDF has done in each country, please visit our country pages.

Under the new Digital@UNCDF strategy, UNCDF is now channelling its experience to support the development and scaling up of digital innovations that empower young people and smoothen their transition to adulthood, with the specific objective of increasing the number of youth engaged in entrepreneurship, decent employment, school, or further education and training.
In order to achieve our objectives, we will continue to invest in emerging ecosystems that facilitate access to finance for young people while stepping up our support of other digital innovations that provide holistic solutions for youth.

if you want to know more about the youth@UNCDF visit our dedicated page.

YouthStart and the SDGs

YouthStart’s goal is to increase the number of youth engaged in entrepreneurship, decent employment, school, or further education and training.

It will contribute to the achievement of the SDGs, in particular, SDG 1: Ending Poverty, SDG 5: Achieving Gender Equality and Empower all Women and Girls, and SDG 8: Goal of Promoting Inclusive and sustainable Economic Growth, Full and Productive Employment and Decent Work for All.

The programme will increase the number of youth who use integrated services and complementary non-financial services, to better manage school-to-work transitions and access economic opportunities.

In Focus


YouthStart has produced over the last few years leading research on youth finance, including:

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Where We Work

  • Burkina Faso
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Ethiopia
  • Guinea
  • Malawi
  • Niger
  • The Gambia
  • Togo
  • Rwanda
  • Senegal
  • Uganda

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YouthStart by the Numbers (2018)


New Young


Saved at FSPs


Loaned to Young


Trained through
FinEd Programmes

Access to Finance


Acces to Jobs

Finance Literacy

News and Media

YouthStart is supported by

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