Empowering Youth through Access to Finance
The Finance Alliance for Sustainable Trade (FAST) helps to bring financial skills and training to small and medium business owners, including youth, all over the world. As a membership-based organization, FAST’s members also seek to empower those businesses, including youth and future young leaders and entrepreneurs, in sustainable economic development by providing them with assistance, skills, and financial education.
As youth strive to gain more access to positive and empowering job opportunities, financial inclusion, knowledge of finances and access to financial tools are key elements in allowing them to pursue their goals as young entrepreneurs and workers. Youth is characterized by its abundance of promise, potential and possibility, and one of our goals is to help them reach this potential while supporting sustainable economic development.
What is FAST?
The Finance Alliance for Sustainable Trade, that started operating in 2008, aims to bring together financial institutions and stakeholders in the common goal of supporting sustainable trade and small and medium businesses in adopting sustainable practices at all levels through improving their access to finance. Many FAST members work with youth, reaching out to them in countries across Central and South America, Africa and Asia.
FAST’s financial training programs can empower young people by facilitating and giving them practical skills to access and manage finances. A program such as the Financial Literary Toolbox seeks for example to advance the management capacity of entrepreneurs with sustainable small and medium enterprises in agricultural production by increasing their access to finances through education and training on financial practices, and the compilation of a database of documents and information that seeks to assist SMEs worldwide to be successful and sustainable.
Youth initiatives in our membership
FAST is a member-driven organization and as such, shaped by the work of its members. And many of our members have been working directly or indirectly with youth. Thus, the involvement of our members can take on many forms, such as youth leadership programs and workshops, scholarships to finance education and training, contests to gain access to financing or community resource centers, all of those being only a few examples of the plurality of youth projects that our members undertake.
Root Capital , a non-profit social investment fund, lends capital, delivers financial training and seeks to strengthen market connections in Latin America and Africa. Within their mandate, they have financed many youth programs such as youth leadership programs to assure the continuity of small businesses and cooperatives. SOCODEVI, a network of cooperatives and technical experts carries out a variety of projects all over the world. Its Cooperative and Mutual Partnership Program created a Community Entrepreneurship Support Centre a few years ago to offer collective entrepreneurship and cooperative training to hundreds of young people in Mali. Support then became available for them in areas such as planning, search for funding, and implementation of group business projects or launch of individual business projects. They also offer an international internship program for young people in order for them to build a professional experience and be in contact with local communities outside of their home country. Finally, another one of our members, Agrobanco, has supported youth in Peru, mostly sons and daughter of farmers and students in agrarian sciences to attend training sessions and workshops regarding finances in this field.
Still aiming to empower and educate youth, other member organizations focus on scholarships and education. For example, The InterAmerican Development Bank’s youth wing carries out this type of initiatives, including an entrepreneurship program that helps youth develop promising projects for social investments and economic development. Scholarships also seek to improve educational opportunity for youth, such as Working Capital for Community Needs’s Youth Education Scholarship at the Xochilt Acalt Women’s Center, one of their partners, that aims to enable young Nicaraguan women to overcome inequality, gain independence, and forge better futures for themselves. The center offers workshops on topics such as knowing and understanding one’s body, self-esteem, sexuality, gender violence and political rights while the scholarship pays for the furniture and the school tuition. It is believed that through education they will be able to realize their full economic and social potential.
Why join FAST?
FAST represents an alliance of organizations from a wide variety of cultural, geographical and political contexts, and draws them together to jointly carry out activities and share best practices to overcome the barriers to business growth and development encountered by small and medium business. Through access to sustainable finance, businesses can grow in such a way that has a positive economic, social and environmental impact on their communities. FAST is proud to champion its members that make youth programs a priority, as the future and development of sustainable agriculture and trade lies in their hands.
Serena Thomson, International Relations Officer