The Challenge

Some 78 percent of the 200 million young people in sub-Saharan Africa live on less than US$2 a day, and 48 percent live on less than $1 a day. They are disproportionately affected by high unemployment rates, as the ‘youth bubble’ of people aged 15 to 24 rapidly eclipses private sector growth. At the same time, fewer than five percent of this population has access to financial services; and while many financial service providers express an interest in serving youth, few are equipped to do so.

How We Are Helping?

YouthStart, a UNCDF initiative established in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation, aims to increase access to financial services for low-income youth in sub-Saharan Africa, with an emphasis on savings and financial education. The programme helps to design, test and scale up sustainable services tailored to the needs of young people, while helping to create an enabling regulatory environment for young people to access the right financial and other services they need to make sound financial decisions, build a strong asset base, and create sustainable livelihoods for themselves.

As of June 2014, six months before the end of the four-year programme, approximately 411,000 youth (45% young women and girls) were saving either in the form of an individual savings account or through group-based savings mechanism; close to 60,000 had received an individual or a group loan to start up or expand their own business; and 388,365 had participated in financial education sessions. Check the programmes publications to learn more about Youth Finance


What will we do next?


UNCDF is now looking at expanding YouthStart at a global level for another five years. The programme will continue to improve access to finance and financial capabilities for young people by going a step further with current partners and using the best practices to expand the programme across Africa and Asia. To prepare for this new phase Youthstart gathered its partners at an event in Kigali, Rwanda to discuss the future of the programme and collect their vision and ideas. Learn more about this event

In Detail

Additional Information



GoalTo increase access to financial services for low-income youth in sub-Saharan Africa. Spur innovation and delivery of microfinance for youth in Africa.
  • Designing, testing and scaling up sustainable services targeting the needs of young people;
  • Helping to create an enabling regulatory environment to allow young people to access financial and other services they need.
Active InBurkina-Faso, Democratic-Republic-of-Congo, Ethiopia, Malawi, Rwanda, Senegal, Togo, Uganda.
PartnersUNCDF, The MasterCard Foundation.
Total project cost and UNCDF contributionUSD 12,000,000
USD 200,000

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