Financial Services for Rural Youth: Learning Agenda and Egypt Case Study
With funding from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and in partnership with Silatech, Making Cents International is implementing the IFAD Rural Youth Economic Empowerment Program (RYEEP); a three-year grant to increase employment and self-employment of young people aged 15-35 in the Near East and North Africa (NENA) countries of Egypt, Yemen, Morocco and Tunisia. The program provides capacity building and technical assistance to local institutions to pilot youth-inclusive financial (YFS) and non-financial service (NFS) delivery models to rural youth and to the enterprises that employ them. By 2016, RYEEP pilot projects will reach more than 18,000 young people, facilitating formal sector or self-employment to over 3,750 youth and delivering financial services to over 15,000 youth.
As important as these quantitative outputs is the knowledge generated by these five pilots; and thus a major focus of the program is on capturing and disseminating this learning, with the goal of helping IFAD and youth-inclusive financial services practitioners develop more effective and scalable programs for rural youth. The program builds upon what we know works, to extend learning around five research topics:
- Adapting and Developing Effective Financial Products for Rural Youth
- Determining the Appropriate Level and Delivery System for Supportive Non-Financial Services
- Using Technology to Lower Costs and Provide Youth with Alternative Forms of Finance
- Linking Products or Institutions to Facilitate Movement from Informal to Formal Financial Services
- Designing Innovative Approaches for Scaling Products in Rural Environments
While the program is just beginning, the pilot project in Egypt has already begun producing learning across these research topics. The Egypt Enterprise Your Life project aims to reach 10,000 rural youth through a youth savings group model that provides both savings and credit services, as well as life skills-based entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills. After a little more than one year of operations, the project has adapted an adult-focused VSLA methodology to rural youth, developed a youth-specific entrepreneurship curriculum, and launched savings groups that are now serving 7,801 youth and counting. Experience to date reveals that non-financial services are as or more important than financial services in motivating youth engagement. In addition, the critical importance of using specific product development tools that are designed for, target, and engage youth cannot be overstated.
This Learning Report is one of five learning products to be delivered by the RYEEP grant. It introduces the learning agenda of the overall program and focuses on what has been learned so far from the pilot project in Egypt. It will be updated at program end to capture lessons gained after publication.