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Promoting Inclusive Markets and Financial Systems

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Effective Integration of Financial Services into Youth Programming

The United Nations Population Fund reports that there are 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24, with 89 percent of them residing in less-developed countries (2014). With appropriate knowledge and tools, youth can be financially empowered to access economic opportunities in a sustainable manner. Although they represent a large potential market, the integration of youth into the formal financial system is still a relatively new concept in many countries. In order to address these operational issues and explore innovations in this area, the SEEP Network’s Youth and Financial Services Working Group commissioned and wrote four Promising Practices Briefs. The topics of the briefs were selected during a series of consultations held with Working Group members in January 2015.


Thinking around youth financial inclusion has evolved in the past decade. Once largely the domain of NGOs, such services are now widely provided by commercial financial service providers (FSPs). Community-based organizations also reach significant numbers of young people with savings groups and other informal financial services. Yet, until recently, numerous large-scale programs focused specifically on improving youth access to financial services, using a variety of strategies.

Formal financial inclusion was promoted by projects that engaged with banks, cooperatives, and microfinance institutions, such as: While, wide-scale participation in youth-oriented savings groups was supported by:

A specific focus on youth financial inclusion was seen as necessary in order to raise awareness of the importance and utility of appropriate financial services among financial institutions, young people, and their families. And today, financial services are increasingly being considered within an ecosystem of interventions contributing to youth economic opportunities.

Driving Financial Inclusion through Integrated Programming & Leveraging Financial Inclusion to Achieve Broader Youth Development Goals


Increased financial inclusion for youth may be one of many goals in an integrated program promoting youth economic opportunities. Implementers have successfully used a range of strategies to drive financial inclusion, including increased youth engagement and participation, comprehensive capacity building for both youth clients and FSPs, and provision of safe spaces, particularly for adolescent girls.

Moreover, increased financial inclusion for youth can be a powerful tool to achieve broader development goals. Practitioners have successfully leveraged financial services as platforms for creating and expanding young people’s social capital, driving increased civic engagement, providing opportunities for learning about enterprise development, and increasing resilience of vulnerable groups.

Figure 1 highlights a number of objectives that integrated youth financial inclusion programming can help to achieve.

What next for youth financial services?

Youth financial services have matured significantly in the past two decades. Though significant gaps still remain in financial inclusion, donors and implementers are moving toward a more inclusive approach, incorporating financial services for youth into programs as part of broader objectives, such as economic development or even youth development.

There are still many questions that require further exploration as financial services continue to reach more young people:
    • How can we positively leverage the family and peer influences on youth financial decisions?
    • What is the business case for serving youth clients, especially small savers such as the poor and rural youth?
    • How do we support youth in getting the optimum combination of services, including formal and informal financing?
For an in-depth discussion of integrating youth financial services into economic opportunities programming and the questions above, please see our publication here.


Jennifer Denomy is the Director of Youth Economic Opportunities at MEDA, responsible for strategy to promote increased financial access, entrepreneurship and employment opportunities for young people.  MEDA’s youth programming includes successful long and short term initiatives in Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Yemen and Afghanistan, supporting non-formal education and workplace safety initiatives with working youth.  She also facilitates the SEEP Network’s Youth and Financial Services Working Group.  

Rebecca Hession is the Program Assistant for Working Groups and Learning Initiatives. In this role, she supports the communication and facilitation of SEEP’s working groups, and the preparations for their respective projects and events. She has both previous non-profit and NGO experience, including an internship with the World Bank Group while in graduate school. Rebecca holds a BA from the University of Central Florida, and an MA in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, focused in development and human rights.


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