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> Posted by Eric Zuehlke, Web and Communications Director, CFI

It’s a big couple of weeks for Africa here in Washington, D.C. On Monday, President Obama hosted a town hall meeting to welcome this year’s class of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). Launched in 2010 by Obama, YALI supports young African leaders as they spur economic growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa. These Fellows spend six weeks at one of 20 U.S. universities and colleges undergoing leadership training and mentoring in business and entrepreneurship, civic engagement, and public administration. Next week, the State Department will host the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit with heads of state from 50 African countries to advance the U.S. Administration’s focus on trade and investment in Africa and discuss security and democratic development.

Nearly one-third of all Africans are between the ages of 10 and 24, and approximately 60 percent are below 35. YALI is tapping into the drive and energy of Africa’s youth to effect change. Many Fellows in the YALI network are focused on improving access to financial services, whether it’s encouraging a savings culture in Zimbabwe, establishing microfinance programs for women and youth in Kenya, or creating a microfinance program to help start medical supply stores in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.

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> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Associate, CFI

Financial capability is cornerstone to financial inclusion. After all, without the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to make good financial decisions, the utility of accessible financial services is greatly compromised. However, financial capability levels need addressing, even in countries that have relatively high services penetration such as the United States. Thankfully, the urgency is increasingly recognized, for example, through efforts such as Financial Literacy Month in the U.S. About a decade ago, April was designated as a month to call attention to financial literacy, and in 2012 the shift was made to include attitude and behavior change: President Obama proclaimed Financial Capability Month. To celebrate, here’s a rundown of where the United States stands with financial capability, and a few public and private efforts aimed at improving this financial inclusion area.

According to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, about 40 percent of American adults report keeping close track of their spending and about 35 percent have a budget. In terms of effective money management, consumer debt in the U.S. totals more than $2 trillion. In perhaps the most alarming statistic of all, half of Americans indicate that they have less in savings than they would need to live for one month in an emergency and a quarter have less than they need for two weeks. Roughly 65 percent of American adults have not ordered a copy of their credit report in the past year and about 30 percent don’t know their credit score. When asked to grade their level of financial proficiency, 40 percent of Americans give themselves either a C, D, or F.

But Americans do recognize the importance of financial capability. Eighty percent of adults indicate that they would benefit from advice and answers from professionals on basic finance questions. Many would like to speak with financial education service providers, such as credit counselors, followed by banks, and then financial planners.

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> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Associate, CFI

8439582304_65373d394f_zAs you’re here on the CFI Blog, you’re likely familiar with microfinance. But was this the case back when you were in school? It’s April, which means we’re amidst the Month of Microfinance (MoMF), a student-led movement spotlighting microfinance and bridging the gap between students and the sector. This year’s MoMF spans activities engaging students, MFIs, and key industry players, including Kiva, the SEEP Network, and Truelift, supporting access to quality financial services for all and engaging the next generation of microfinance professionals.

Microfinance is increasingly taught in schools, but not everyone has access to a course. The Month of Microfinance offers students a platform to learn about the industry and in turn easily spread the word through their networks. For students looking to organize activities on campus, the MoMF team provides the resources to screen a movie, set-up informative displays, organize fundraisers, and spearhead guest speaker events. A number of MoMF contests conducive to online media conversation are underway. Kiva U, Citi Microfinance, and AboutMicrofinance are hosting a student video competition and an essay competition prompting participants to explore the topics of poverty alleviation, profit management, technology innovation, and gender equality.

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> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Associate, CFI

Jeroo Billimoria of Global Money Week, a worldwide child and youth financial empowerment movement, recently said, “Want to ensure poor children mature into poor adults? Make sure they spend all their leftover cash.” To me, that simple statement captures the obvious case for advancing financial inclusion for children and youth. Youth save at dismal rates and lack adequate access to formal financial services. Global Money Week, expected to span 112 countries, 485 organizations, and 2 million children, aims to combat this reality.

The weeklong movement, now in its third year, is led by Child & Youth Finance International (CYFI), a global network working towards the financial inclusion and economic empowerment of children and youth. Global Money Week’s participants range from central banks, to government ministers, schools, NGOs, the media, and children. Its activities include bank visits, educational events, expert discussions, online engagements, and the launching of new research and initiatives.

One of the new reports launched in coincidence with Global Money Week is Banking a New Generation: Developing Responsible Retail Banking Products for Children and Youth, a joint-publication from MasterCard and Child & Youth Finance International. The publication is designed to support financial institutions, NGOs, and governments in collaboratively developing financial products and services appropriate for children and youth. Among the publication’s content are guiding principles for appropriate child and youth products, the case for financial institutions investing in this client segment, and considerations for the product development process.

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> Posted by Rani Deshpande, YouthSave Project Director, Save the Children

Two big financial inclusion gatherings in Europe a few weeks ago turned up the volume on bringing more people into the formal financial system — safely, meaningfully, and fast. With big trends poised to change the financial inclusion landscape, how can we harness them to expand savings opportunities for young people?

In London, the FI2020 convening brought together a who’s-who of leaders from the worlds of politics, banking, and microfinance as a culmination of the 18-month “roadmap to financial inclusion” process led by CFI. Discussions here centered largely on the biggest disruptive trends ensuring that, to paraphrase one speaker, financial inclusion will change more in the next 7 years than it has in the last 30. The comment reflects the general tone of the conversation, which was one of impatience or perhaps anticipation at this “inflection moment” created by the convergence of technological development and market dynamics.

According to CFI’s “Mapping the Invisible Market” study, the income of the bottom 40 percent of the world’s low- and middle-income economies will grow from $3 trillion to $5.8 trillion from 2010 to 2020. At the same time, other panelists pointed out that access to information (through mobile phones), the use of big data, and customer-centricity are creating game-changing new ways to reach and serve poor customers. In order to take advantage of this opportunity, one panelist urged the audience to “stop ‘innovating’ and start listening to clients” or to keep innovation “brain-dead” simple so that it can easily scale (critical given generally thin margins for BoP services). Usage, as opposed to access, was also highlighted as the new frontier of inclusion, with almost 50 percent of adults possessing accounts but only 7 percent in the developing world using them actively (> 2 transactions per month).

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> Posted by Center Staff

The FI2020 Global Forum in London gets underway this Sunday with a pre-Forum side meeting on financial inclusion for persons with disabilities (PWDs). This client-centric start feels like a fitting precursor for an event to expand financial inclusion.

Financial inclusion requires that financial services meet the unique needs of all clients, especially the needs of the most underserved and vulnerable client groups. Sessions throughout the Forum reflect this key tenet. In addition, there are side meetings on the Financial Capability Roadmap and the Consumer Protection Roadmap, focused on moving these roadmap principles and recommendations to action. These and the other three financial inclusion roadmaps were developed through a consultative process that collected and incorporated the perspectives of specific client groups.

Among Forum participants are representatives of various client segments – such as PWDs, women, the elderly, youth, rural populations, and migrants – to help raise awareness of their unique needs and assets. Here’s a collection of pertinent statistics for financial inclusion on these client segments:

Youth:

  • 1.8 billion of the world’s population is between the ages of 10 and 24
  • 87 percent of youth are concentrated in the developing world
  • About half the world’s youth report being economically active
  • 38 percent of young adults have an account compared to over 54 percent of older adults

The Elderly:

  • In 1950, globally, 1 in 20 people were elderly. By 2050, it will be 1 in 5.
  • In 2000, only 6 percent of people in less developed countries were over 65 years old. By 2050, that number will grow to 20 percent.

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> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Assistant, CFI

For many of us in the U.S., it’s largely happenstance that we cross paths with the topics of microfinance and financial inclusion in a meaningful way. Personally, I remember first hearing about microfinance from friends during college, but it was always in passing, never to the extent or specificity needed for it to make a lasting impression on me. I wish this wasn’t the case! I wish my college self, and all students for that matter, had more exposure to these areas.

To help students and the U.S. academic community engage with microfinance and financial inclusion, Citi Microfinance and Kiva have teamed up to launch Kiva U. The mission of Kiva U, built around three core initiatives, is to create a community for our future inclusion leaders and to support the expansion of full financial inclusion. There’s a big opportunity in the combination of modern communications technology and academia’s inherently social environment, though few interactive financial inclusion platforms for students and educators exist. Kiva U aims to gain popularity as such a platform.

The three core initiatives of Kiva U are expand campus-based microfinance clubs, develop classroom-based microfinance and financial inclusion curriculum for all learning levels, and foster leadership among students interested in social enterprise, international development, and financial inclusion.

There are currently Kiva clubs at 67 colleges and 60 high schools in the United States. Providing online and offline engagement tools, Kiva U plans to leverage this foundation and connect with additional students and educators throughout the country’s academic community.

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> Posted by Center Staff

Today marks 2013’s International Youth Day, a day set aside for governments and individuals around the world to bring attention to youth issues. First designated by the United Nations in 1999, this year’s day is themed “Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward,” and seeks to raise awareness of the opportunities and risks associated with youth migration, share knowledge coming out of recent research and analysis, and engage stakeholders, including youth migrants, in discussing their experiences and in taking action.

Globally, there are about 214 million migrants, with more than 10 percent of these being youth. Like all who migrate, youth face serious rewards in departing their native country, such as economic opportunities and escaping persecution, as well as serious risks, such as discrimination and inadequate living conditions. Youth migrants also face particular challenges, like a heightened vulnerability to sexual abuse and exploitation.

In UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s message for this year’s Youth Day, he indicated that too little is known about youth migrants’ struggles and experiences. For ways to get involved, including channels for sharing personal experiences, visit the UN website, here.

In the Roadmap to Financial Inclusion, the Financial Inclusion 2020 is creating an action agenda to advance financial inclusion for all client segments, including youth and migrants. To learn more about the Roadmap and to explore becoming a Roadmap reviewer, visit the FI2020 website, here. FI2020 also offers the opportunity to engage with financial inclusion among youth and migrant segments through the Mapping the Invisible Market initiative’s interactive data tools. With the Data Explorer, you can create visualizations illustrating how changing economics, technologies, demographics – including on youth and migration – and other variables are affecting financial inclusion. Check out the Data Explorer, here.

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> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Assistant, CFI

Today, people around the world are celebrating World Population Day, a day that seeks to bring attention to the importance of population issues in the context of development. The focus of this year’s event is adolescent pregnancy, with the aim to catalyze progress in securing a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.

There are currently roughly 600 million girls globally ages 10 to 19, 500 million of whom live in developing countries. Each year, 16 million teenage girls give birth, and an additional 3.2 million undergo unsafe abortions. Even though 90 percent of these teenagers giving birth are married, they still experience conditions contributing to challenging pregnancies: inadequate education, sexual coercion, violence, rights violations (including child- and forced-marriages), and gender inequality. In addition to lesser hardships that can come from unplanned or uninformed pregnancies, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls ages 15 to 19 around the world.

The United Nations is calling for commitments from countries, communities, and individuals to support the provision of quality education for girls from primary school through adolescence, including age-appropriate, comprehensive education on sexuality and health. It’s been found that when a girl is educated, she is more likely to marry later, have children later, have healthier children, and earn a higher income. The UN also emphasizes the necessity for comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services. Other areas that demand examination are the legal systems surrounding marriage (including minimum marriage ages) and women’s rights.

As we have posted about previously (see here, here, and here), the low level of financial inclusion among youth is a missed opportunity to contribute to their well-being. Starting youth out with financial services can be a good investment. A New America Foundation study suggests that instilling a habit of saving among youth sets them on a course for a lifetime of financial capability. According to Youth Economic Opportunities, girls who are less financially dependent are at lower risk for negative effects of early pregnancy and child bearing. In a recent World Bank paper on gender equality and development, it was found that lack of agency (that is, a person’s capability to advance goals she values) is a key factor driving poor reproductive health outcomes among women generally. For example, women in Bangladesh who had more decision-making power were more likely to access prenatal services and skilled birthing accommodations.

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> Posted by Maria Perdomo, YouthStart Programme Manager, UN Capital Development Fund

Opening a bank account in Senegal gave me first-hand experience in how a bank can fail to apply the client protection principle on transparency. On my visit to open the account, I spent one hour waiting and another hour completing forms and asking the sales representative questions. When I decided that I had spent too much time trying to understand exactly what fees were associated with the account, I asked the representative for a brochure that explained it all. She looked at me as if I were speaking another language because, in fact, the bank did not have a single document disclosing all the fees associated with the account. So there I was, writing down all the fees the representative could remember. In the end—and after a lot of probing—together we estimated that I would have to spend about US$30 (CFAF 15,000) to open the account and then US$10 to US$15 on monthly fees! But, of course, I would not know exactly how much I was paying in fees before receiving my first statement.

A couple of months later, I went to visit a financial service provider in Uganda and interviewed the group of young women and girls that you can see in the photo. I was completely taken by how these empowered young women were saving in their individual accounts as little as 1,000 Uganda shillings (US$0.39) per week. For them, every penny counts, and they can only afford saving in an institution that is transparent about its fees and responsible about its pricing. Seeing this group of young women and girls, in contrast with my not-so-positive experience at the bank, reinforced my commitment to client protection for youth, who are among the most vulnerable clients.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog, except where otherwise noted, are those of the authors and guest bloggers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Financial Inclusion or its affiliates.
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