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Empowering Youth to Save for their Futures

We will empower youth to actively save towards their dreams with gamified digital financial capability building tools.

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We intend to address an urgent global challenge that bridges peace and economic prosperity: an unprecedented number of youth are coming of age in an environment that is unable to provide them with economic opportunities they need to fulfil dreams. The global economy will need to generate 5 million new jobs every month to employ one billion youth entering the market over the next decade (World Bank 2015), a potentially de-stabilizing force and driver of social unrest in many countries.

Low income youth, especially those that have been displaced, are especially vulnerable to economic insecurity and are marginalized and excluded from mainstream financial services. They need financial tools, and the knowledge and ability to use those tools, to save towards education that builds essential skills for employment and entrepreneurship, and towards investment for business start-up. In Ghana, where we plan to focus initial pilot activities, 40% of the population is under 15, and will find themselves in an increasingly competitive labor market (New America Foundation, 2015). Ghanaian youth recognize this and prioritized saving for education (44%) and business start-up (27%) above all other needs, based on a survey of 825 youth 18-24.

Despite the need for building youth financial management skills, financial institutions do not view youth as viable customers because of low balances and high dormancy rates. Sub-Saharan Africa, at 17% account ownership for those 15-24, has one of the lowest levels of youth access to finance (New American Foundation, 2013). Traditional financial literacy delivered on a one-off basis is resource intensive has had mixed results in driving sustained savings behavior. Youth are proven early adopters of mobile technologies, which can be used to serve youth more cost-effectively.

Our goal is to empower youth to achieve financial independence and build sustained financial management skills that ultimately lead to improved livelihood for themselves and their families. We are in the process of developing a “learn by doing” digital financial capability building methodology (using SMS, and other mobile-based applications to deliver financial knowledge) as a low-cost way to reach youth at scale so they are equipped and empowered to manage their finances with confidence. We will integrate these methodologies with new mobile-based financial products so that youth can “learn by doing” as and when they conduct transactions. Further, mobile-based savings accounts can be accessed without having to travel to a bank branch, which is costly and not always feasible for lower-income youth.

While our initial focus is on Ghana, our vision is to develop a methodology that can be applied across multiple countries and contexts, and across youth-focused development and humanitarian programs. Financial capability building also has essential non-financial impact on youth development, including a future orientation and planning skills, and can be powerful when used in conjunction with youth development programs focusing on humanitarian situations, health, life skills training, workforce development, and entrepreneurship.

Explain your idea

Our idea is to develop a “gamified” digital financial capability building methodology that uses SMS, interactive voice response (IVR), Facebook, WhatsApp, and other applications youth already use routinely to engage them over a sustained period of time. We will integrate digital financial capability building into innovative mobile-based financial products being offered by our partner Ecobank that are affordable and do not require travel to a bank branch. In 2016, we completed a survey with 825 youth ages 18-24 to ensure we are designing with their needs in mind. Of these youth, 47% feel they do not earn enough to save and 67% want financial guidance to build savings or manage spending. Additionally, 60% use WhatsApp, Facebook or other applications, but IVR and SMS remain important channels to reach youth as 38% do not use applications on their phone; we will therefore use a combination of channels. We will use real-time digital messaging to pilot a “learn by doing” approach to empower youth to save for education and business start-up. We will develop a digital engagement strategy deployed over 6-8 months and facilitate achievable, daily or weekly micro-savings. Youth will: • Be able to attend a brief, in-person training, or access financial capability building tutorials via an application on their phone, calling into an interactive voice response service, or via online videos • Set a savings goal for education or business start-up • Track expenses • Receive automated SMS nudge reminders on progress toward their goal, cheering them on or encouraging them to get back on track with additional deposits • Receive SMS reminders and quizzes that reinforce the financial literacy training • Have opportunities to win prizes for achieving savings targets • Be able to access recorded peer testimonials on dealing with setbacks in their financial and personal lives We will integrate our digital financial capability building tools with Ecobank’s innovative Xpress Account and TBILL4ALL products, which allow youth to sign up for and save in interest bearing accounts via their phone and via thousands of agent outlets. Youth can open their Xpress Account and make small frequent deposits without cost and without having to go to a bank branch- important for those working in the informal sector and being paid daily. The Ecobank TBILL4ALL facility, with a deposit as low as 5 cedis (a little over $1) and a return of about 15%, allows youth to access safe, high return investment products, and is unprecedented in increasing access to investment for lower income segments. We are currently partnering with Ecobank Ghana to test a light prototype of our financial capability building methodology with 200 youth beginning in May, and will use customer feedback to refine our design. We seek funding to pilot and scale up our idea.

Who Benefits?

Initially, FHI 360 will work in Ghana with low to middle-income youth 18-24 years, and then expand to youth 15-35. Youth will benefit by gaining financial management skills that will help them grow their savings balances and ideally pay towards their education, business start-up, or other livelihood priorities. They will gain budgeting skills, learn how to track and control expenses, how to determine what percentage of their salary to save towards fixed and variable expenses, emergencies, seasonal expenditures, and medium term savings. Through our gamified approach, they will learn how to plan, set a savings goal, and work towards achieving that goal in small increments, with motivation provided along the way. Ultimately, our goal is to improve the livelihood and economic security of youth. Long term out comes we hope to drive include improved income, educational attainment, the ability to weather shocks, and greater confidence in themselves and their financial management skills.

How is your idea unique?

This will be one of the first scaled, youth-focused digital financial capability initiatives integrated with mobile savings products. FHI 360 and Ecobank are collaborating through an innovative partnership that bring tremendous scalability in development and commercial contexts. Ecobank has 33 country offices and FHI 360 has a 70-country footprint and $610 million project portfolio including youth life skills and workforce development, education, gender, financial inclusion, and health. Additionally, our approach: • does not require youth to own a smart phone; it can be deployed via SMS or voice channels • focuses on youth savings, while many initiatives target use of credit by adults • sends personalized messages based on actual transactions to drive real-time learning and behavior change • does not entail complex algorithms; our methodology is simple, low cost, and replicable • will demonstrate that there is a business case for banks to offer financial services to youth

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Research & Early Testing: I am exploring my idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Tell us more about you

FHI 360 is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC with expertise in research, digital financial services, and youth development. We will draw upon in-house experts and trainings developed via over $100 million in youth programs including financial capability/access, employment and entrepreneurship, and behavior change communication. FHI 360 is active in over 70 countries including Ghana. Relevant FHI 360-managed initiatives include: • Integrated financial capability building with HIV prevention education for youth in South Africa. Conducting rigorous RCT research to measure this approach’s impact on economic and HIV outcomes. • Completed financial literacy training and mobilized 12,500 vulnerable youth into savings groups in Mozambique. • Developed an on-demand SMS-based application with family planning information accessed by 300,000 users in Tanzania, mainly youth. • Developed a life skills training methodology, including financial capability building, for vulnerable youth in Mozambique which resulted in 95% continuing their education and 65% finding employment. FHI 360 is deeply committed to this initiative, and has already invested funds in launching a prototype with 200 youth by June. Staff driving the project forward include: Sonali Rohatgi: 15 years of financial services industry experience in private sector and microfinance organizations. Akua Asante: Implemented mobile payments to digitize $4 million in cash transactions for FHI 360 projects in Ghana. Caroline Averch: 20 years of experience in MSME and value chain finance, financial sector capacity building, and digital finance experience. David Myhre: Expert in implementing and evaluating youth financial capability building, and integrating financial literacy with health education. Rachel Whitmore: 10 years of experience designing and managing programs on youth, education, and the adaptation of technology for learning. FHI 360 is implementing activities in partnership with Ecobank. The financial capability program developed will be deployed via Ecobank Ghana’s technical platforms and sales and servicing infrastructure. Ecobank will also train youth and track metrics. FHI 360 will focus on market assessment and impact research, youth-specific financial capability-building content, behavior change communication, training Ecobank staff on financial capability building, and project management. The Head of Mobile and Internet Banking in Ghana, is leading the initiative on Ecobank’s behalf. In addition to Ecobank, we will partner with NGOS and government organizations that are focused on youth livelihoods, life skills, and health to integrate financial capability building into their programming. FHI 360 also seeks a partner experienced in developing gamification applications, preferably in the West African market.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.


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