Youth Financial Inclusion in the Arab World
For more than a generation, the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region has had the highest youth
unemployment rates in the world, reflecting decades of youth economic and financial exclusion.
A World Bank analysis of the Global Findex Database (Demirgüç-Kunt and Klapper, 2012) found that
only 13% of young people (aged 15-24) in MENA region had accounts at a formal financial institution,
as compared to a world average of 37% and 17% in the next closest region, Sub-Saharan Africa.
After decades of social, economic, and political marginalization, young people have been at the
forefront of the social unrest taking place across the region over the past two years. The Arab Spring
was sparked by the actions of a frustrated young Tunisian street vendor, a micro-entrepreneur.
Governments have responded by searching for innovative policy interventions to support youth
economic and financial inclusion. More than ever before, youth economic empowerment and
financial inclusion are seen and understood to be keys to political stability and economic prosperity.
During the CGAP Annual Meeting in Amman in May 2012, a group of microfinance institutions and
international organizations expressed an interest in exploring policy and program alternatives for
improving access to financial services among MENA youth. In response, CGAP and Silatech jointly
organized a policy workshop to (1) share the results of recent research on youth financial access,
(2) explore opportunities for innovative programs that could increase financial services available to
youth, and (3) discuss policy alternatives that could improve youth financial inclusion in the region.