Remember adolescents and youth in clamour for financial inclusion

youths

Kenya Bankers Association CEO Habil Olaka mentors students of Lang'ata High School in conjunction with the Global Money Week  2016.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

This month is the Global Money Week — the annual celebration that seeks to highlight the importance of financial health among the youth. Coincidentally, it’s also the campaign’s 10th anniversary of making a clarion call that it’s never too early to set about building financial reserves for a better future.

The commitment bodes well with the prevailing call to deliberately ramp up efforts towards full inclusion, particularly for vulnerable groups such as the youth, women and persons with disabilities. The move is largely motivated by the fact that full inclusion demands an optimal, equal and independent participation of every demographic in the financial system along established national and global development blueprints.

The ambition to have children and the youth accommodated in the inclusion agenda is inspiring and commendable, considering the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic upon economies since 2020. The dwindling disposable and investment incomes and significantly reduced business activity inhibited the attainment of earlier growth projections.

Most world economies are tilting towards a semblance of post-pandemic recovery. Hitherto subdued sectors, such as tourism and hospitality, have a promising recovery, particularly on account of the recent relaxation of Covid-related containment measures.

Innovation

Lessons gleaned from the disruption demand a fresh look at opportunities that may have been overlooked in the past, for the pandemic has also revealed opportunities that can be tapped into through innovative solutions to infuse growth. Innovation is key to creating strategies towards harnessing and unleashing the potential of youth-led and woman-owned enterprises and SMEs.

The youth are an invaluable cog in spurring growth. The 2019 Housing and Population and Census report shows 75 per cent of Kenyans are under 35. But with low access to opportunities and a high level of unemployment, young people are not optimally participating in the national economic development agenda. It is, therefore, critical to make conscious efforts towards impressing upon young people the need to make wise financial decisions early. Policy interventions also hold a great promise with regard to playing a facilitatory role.

Instilling financial literacy in adolescents and the youth can ingrain important skills that will, ultimately, prove invaluable in their transition to adulthood. That should be considered for inclusion in the mainstream education system, especially within the unfolding Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC).

Financially responsible citizens

Exposing young people, especially those in high school, age 13-17, to good financial habits, can play a vital role in enabling them to mature into financially responsible citizens. There has been notable progress in their financial inclusion but there is a gap. This is a significant age group, vulnerable and at a stage that adult support is critical in helping them to navigate the complexities of life.

Generally, adolescents experience limited access to independent financial tools, have low control over the money they get and lack relevant personalised offers. It is, therefore, instructive for stakeholders to collaborate towards giving them the support structures and tools that will help to accelerate their financial inclusion in a timely manner.

A growing number of initiatives have demonstrated that, contrary to conventional belief, even poor and vulnerable youth can accumulate savings and assets—when the right tools and interventions are available. Developing cost-effective products and delivery systems to serve adolescent youth, more so those from low-income populations, is key to harnessing their full potential. Savings can be a springboard to a better future.

Stakeholders in the financial services sector should enhance financial literacy initiatives, exploring opportunities to fully bring youth aboard the financial system. A truly accommodative financial system should be aligned to the egalitarian dictum that says true inclusion must not leave any one behind.

Dr Olaka is chief executive officer of the Kenya Bankers Association (KBA). [email protected]

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