Policy Opportunities and Constraints to Access Youth Financial Services

UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF)
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Given the increasing youth population in developing countries, the high levels of youth unemployment and limited economic opportunities for youth, governments are increasingly looking for proactive approaches to help youth realize their full economic potential. Increased access to financial services and increased financial capability to use those services effectively to invest in their education, enterprises, and futures may provide that beacon. Yet youth face many barriers in accessing financial services, including restrictions in the legal and regulatory environment, inappropriate and inaccessible products and services and low financial capability. The public policy opportunity—and imperative—is evident.

Overcoming these barriers and achieving successful youth financial inclusion requires a multi-stakeholder approach that engages government (including policy makers, regulators, and line ministries), Financial Service Providers (FSPs), Youth Service Organizations (YSOs), other youth stakeholders, as well as youth themselves. The following are recommendations that policy makers and regulators should consider for each of the three barriers to advance financial inclusion for youth:


  • Develop legislation that is inclusive and protective of youth rights and consistent with the principles supported by the Smart Campaign and CYFI (e.g. minimize age restrictions and be more flexible on identification requirements)
  • Ensure that adequate mechanisms of recourse exist and that they are accessible to youth
  • Encourage FSPs to adopt industry standards of client protection and youth-friendly products
  • Coordinate activities among different regulatory bodies and ensure alignment with the national
  • youth policies
  • Develop and promote awareness of national youth policies that promote access to both financial and non-financial services
  • Rescinding NYC requirements for small deposits and withdrawals (e.g. under $20) and accounts with low balances (e.g. under $200)


  • Stimulate and support the financial sector to design appropriate financial products that are consistent with the Smart Campaign and the Child Friendly Banking principles of CYFI
  • Develop policies that offer incentives or subsidies to open and use a savings account
  • Signal to donors that funding to build capacity of FSPs in the youth financial services market is a priority
  • Develop appropriate policy and regulation to support the development of innovative delivery channels (e.g. agent, mobile, and school banking) that promote access to youth financial services


  • Develop a national strategy for financial education
  • Invest in the development and delivery of financial education and entrepreneurship programmes to increase the financial capabilities of youth
  • Integrate financial education and entrepreneurship curriculum into the national curriculum
  • Support YSOs to reach out-of-school youth with financial education
  • Provide information on youth demographics and links to YSOs and other government institutions with whom FSPs can partner
  • Advance best approaches to financial education for youth by coordinating amongst government entities and collaborating with FSPs and YSOs
Financial Inclusion
Sub-Saharan Africa
Financial Capability
Governance & Policy
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