The start of something new, something based on MEDA's experiences in Morocco
MEDA recently launched its partnership with CUSO International to improve financial inclusion for youth in Nigeria. The project titled Youth Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Access and Development (YouLead) will work with young women and men in Cross River State, Nigeria.
Nigeria is Africa's most populous country and the unemployment rate stands at approximately 20%, with youth unemployment at almost double this rate at 35%.
Where is Cross River State?
It is a coastal state in South Eastern Nigeria bordering Cameroon to the east. Its capital is at Calabar and it is named for the Cross River itself (Oyono), which passes through the state.
What will YouLead do?
The project will promote job creation for 7000 young women and men (ages 18-35) by supporting growth in the small business sector, and providing skills training, tools, and access to finance for young workers and young adult entrepreneurs. In five years, the project aims to connect young people to innovative financial products and services that will help them develop skills to become economically active and enter the job market, while increasing their equitable participation in entrepreneurship and economic activities in targeted natural resources, such as agriculture, aquaculture, forestry and eco-tourism.
Youth need a safe place to save and access to appropriately structured loans. These can serve as stepping stones on their path to entrepreneurship, career development, and/or financial independence. MEDA's work in YouLead will improve the capacity of financial service providers to respond to the financial needs of youth by developing gender-responsive financial services and products for young women and men. MEDA is building on its expertise and experiences from similar work done on financial inclusion for youth in Morocco, Egypt and Ethiopia.
In the first year, selected financial service providers will be assessed for readiness and commitment to develop new products and services for youth. Youth will also be surveyed in order to assess their needs and demands. Matching the supply and demand side of financial services, and enabling financial service providers to better understand the needs of youth in Cross River State will be a huge part of the project's initial work.
This is only the beginning...
The coming months will reveal many lessons for programming in Nigeria and MEDA looks forward to sharing these over the project's duration.
The first year of a project is always a steep learning curve and we expect to learn a lot about our assumptions regarding local needs and capacities in Cross River State. Are there lessons that others can share on this process – on developing financial services and products for youth AND/OR on working in Nigeria? Do you know any financial service providers in Nigeria who have developed innovative and successful products for youth?