> Posted by Meghan Greene
Today marks the first annual celebration of International ChildFinance Day, an initiative launched by Child & Youth Finance International (CYFI). Child & Youth Finance International is a collaborative effort among banking networks, NGOs, multilaterals, private sector partners, and academics to build a movement toward appropriate financial products and services that help children and youth build assets and more secure futures. The organization is in its infancy itself, having been founded only in July of last year. Despite its young age, though, CYFI has big ambitions: by 2015 it hopes to extend to 100 million children and youth in 100 countries access to quality financial products and services, as well as financial education.
Having worked on the Financial Access at Birth (FAB) program, we’re quite familiar with ambitious goals that are at once daunting and exhilarating. FAB’s concept is to extend financial inclusion by offering every child born a unique identification number and a $100 savings account, accessible via mobile and electronic branchless banking. It’s an exciting idea that would build on the power of incentives to achieve scale, sustainability, and impact, and it’s founded on many of the same ideals and ideas that motivate CYFI’s leaders and collaborators. Over the past several months, FAB has explored partnerships with a variety of experts who have the knowledge and skill sets to make this big idea a reality, and we continue to be impressed by the breadth of knowledge and generous spirit of our peers.
We are thrilled to see this ambitious effort by CYFI to advance child and youth finance. The movement to expand financial inclusion to children and youth is clearly picking up speed, and a number of pilots, programs, and research projects are underway. For example, the YouthSave consortium (led by Save the Children in partnership with the Center for Social Development, CGAP, and the New America Foundation with support by The MasterCard Foundation), has launched youth accounts in partner banks in Colombia, Ghana, Kenya, and Nepal, with encouraging early numbers and plans to dramatically scale the pilots in 2012. Similarly, Child & Youth Finance International has brought together a variety of stakeholders, including experts in regulation, media, academia, education, and implementation, first to develop a strategic plan for increasing financial access and education, and now to turn that plan into action. In 2012, in addition to launching ChildFinance Day and ChildFinance Week, CYFI expects to introduce certification for child-friendly banking and education – an important early step in their plan to reach 100 million in the next three years.
Experts estimate that 90 percent of children and youth globally lack access to basic financial services, though they comprise nearly half the global population. Moreover, it is the least developed countries that face the greatest challenge in the form of very young populations that need to become economically active at an early age. In the least developed countries the median age is about 20, while in the middle income countries it is 27, and in the “rich” world, the median is 40. This translates into 3 billion young people living on less than $2 a day, a situation that will only change slowly over the next decade. We need coordinated and collaborative action to reach this population, and are encouraged to see the movement taking baby steps – and big strides – toward its goal.
Happy first ChildFinance Day. We look forward to the milestones that future celebrations will bring.
Have you read?
Financial Access at Birth: A Real Possibility
Saving the World — 20 Minutes at a Time…
What’s ‘A FAB Idea’? Financial Access at Birth, Says ‘The Economist’