Making Financial Services and Business Skills Development Available to African Children and Youth: Accomplishments and Limitations of Research and Monitoring
About half of children and youth in Sub-Saharan Africa are currently in one way or another engaged in economic activities, yet there is frequently a lack of structures and opportunities for children and youth to become involved in actions related to their own development. This case study examines Plan International’s “Making Financial Services and Business Skills Development Available to African Children and Youth” project, which has sought to create unique opportunities for youth to actively and independently improve their own living conditions in Niger, Sierra Leone, and Senegal. The project focuses on the Village Savings and Loan (VSL) savings and lending methodology as the primary financial service delivery mechanism, which places a premium on savings and building personal assets and minimizes risk through small pools of capital and small loans with no requirement that group members borrow. In order to effectively deliver both non-financial and financial services, Plan International (Plan) found it essential to find key partners on the ground or internationally who had local knowledge or technical expertise. By the end of February 2009, nearly a year ahead of schedule, the project had more than achieved its targets in financial services with 3,093 children and youth organized into functioning Village Savings and Loan Associations. The VSL model has proven itself an effective and appropriate approach to extending financial services to youth. Moreover, associations formed are sustainable and replicable, and local implementing partner institutions have been effective and successful in all three program countries.