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Business News of Friday, 17 April 2015

Source: GNA

YouthSave encourages savings among the youth

Findings from the YouthSave project; a five- year research project on youth savings, has shown that young people could and will save if given the opportunity to do so.

YouthSave is a project of the YouthSave Consortium led by Save the Children, in partnership with the MasterCard Foundation to investigate the potential of savings accounts as a tool for youth development and financial inclusion in developing countries.

The project involves co-designing tailored, sustainable savings products with local financial institutions and assessing their performance and development outcomes with local researchers.

According to Rani Deshpande, YouthSave Project Director, Save the Children, said the research in trying to answer questions such as whether or not the youth would save if offered tailored and appropriate savings opportunities and if they do which types of youth would use it and how, what difference it would make in their lives, what the experience would feel like and what business case it would make?, they undertook a market research as ahead of the project.

She was speaking at the final multi-stakeholder conference on child and youth financial services in Ghana on the theme: “Promoting savings opportunities for young people; results of the five-year research project on youth savings in Ghana.”

She said the study revealed widespread skepticism among adults about what would happen if the youth start saving, and especially when those within the low income bracket, have no money to save.

Findings from the study however proved otherwise and formed the basis for the development of locally tailored YouthSave accounts, in collaboration with partners in Ghana, Kenya, Colombia and Nepal.

In Ghana, the YouthSave Project began in 2010, in partnership with HFC Bank and the Institute for Social, Statistical and Economic Research to design and test the social and commercial impact of youth savings accounts, especially since youth savings has many benefits including reinforcing financial literacy and accelerating financial inclusion for the larger economy.

Since YouthSave products were rolled out in mid-2012, including the HFC Bank Enidaso Account in Ghana, about 117,000 youth in the four countries have opened accounts.

About 15,000 young people from 12-18 years had opened the Enidaso Account with HFC Bank and had saved GH¢ 500,000.00.

Ms Deshpande said although there were variations in the percentage of girls who opened accounts varied across the countries, standing about 55 per cent in Ghana, the way they saved did not differ much across the nations.

Also a significant number of these YouthSave account holders; about 40 per cent were living under the $ 2.50 per day international poverty line as compared with the percentage of the national population, proving that they could save on a low income.

Another important take away from the research was that more than 90 per cent of young people who open accounts said it was their first experience at banking, which was expected given their ages, a significant 20 per cent of them revealed it was the first bank account for their households.

“Youth can save if offered the right opportunities but access is paramount,” she stated, adding more social support and social intermediation is needed to reach young people outside school as this requires more labour and resource intensiveness.

She also called on policy makers and the central bank to consider reviewing the minimum age limit to allow young people to own and operate accounts on their own since they also value privacy and control over their accounts and also for banks to engage youth in order to sustain their interest in making deposits.

Ms Ruth Dueck-Mbeba, Programme Manager, Financial Inclusion at the MasterCard Foundation said the Foundation believes in creating opportunities for all people to learn and prosper and focus on youth education and financial inclusion.

She outlined challenges African youth face including poverty, which she described as complex, but stated: ‘There can be no poverty reduction without economic growth but economic growth cannot achieve its full potential without everyone sharing in it and having access to the financial products and services they need to achieve their life goal.”

She said YouthSave is a testament to the Foundation’s fundamental approaches to meeting challenges: creativity, courage, collaboration and commitment, saying: “When all of these four principles come together, we can see some amazing results.”

Ms Dueck-Mbeba said though the YouthSave project had ended in Ghana, the work of engaging stakeholders and continuing the work of youth banking and savings accounts continues

“We hope that it leads to more engagement and support to the hundreds of thousands of Ghanaian youth who are seeking to leave poverty behind and build safe, healthy and prosperous lives. The challenge is huge and it requires nothing less than our very best,” she stated.