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Posted on July 14, 2017

Young Money: Why Kenyan youth know everything, and nothing, about finance

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Kenyans are learning about money earlier than you might think

Kenyans are learning about money earlier than you might think: as early as four or five they’re picking up financial lessons from their parents. By 18, almost a third have mobile money accounts. The ubiquity of mobile money means finance in Kenya is changing fast and young people are adapting. But what they’re not learning is budgeting, or how mobile money can help. 

“Young people in Kenya, like most of us, feel they don’t have enough money to meet their aspirations,” said Mnikelo Qubu the Head of Digital at Well Told Story.

In January, A Well Told Story, along with FSD Kenya and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation launched a report on an area of finance we still don’t know much about: young people’s financial “pre-journey,” the period before they become adults.

By the time they’re 9 or 10, kids understand the benefit of having their own money and usually start using the digital finances of the adults in their life-with or without permission.

By 14-17, teenagers understand what money can buy. Boys mostly spend on electronics and partying while girls tend to spend on fashion and grooming. And research shows they don’t want to talk about it with their parents.

Kenyan entrepreneurial spirit starts young: teenagers have usually started making their own money such as pocketing their parent’s grocery store change or selling second hand clothing.

They also rely on each other, banding together to form money-making groups (in Kenya, called informal SACCOs or chamas) by collecting garbage or cleaning. In schools, children might sell small amounts of margarine or sugar to other school children.

But by the time you’re 18, it isn’t play money anymore: its time to take care of yourself. Luckily by then, young people have over a decade of financial experience. But still, they’re lacking budgeting and planning skills.

“The discipline of budgeting, the discipline of actively planning for and managing your money and the skill of making the little that you have go further by planning and recording your financial behaviour,” is what Kenyan youth are lacking, says Qubu.

Research shows that people who use financial services like mobile money are more likely to lift themselves out of poverty, and stay out of poverty, compared with those who don’t. But access to digital financial services isn’t enough, young people need access to more complex services, like saving and borrowing.

FSD’s partner Well Told Story has been researching what moves people from basic mobile transactions to more advanced uses. In most cases, it’s a crisis.

But how can we help young people move to these more complicated forms of finance without a crisis? That’s where Shujaaz and Well Told Story comes in.

Imagine the Excel spread sheet meeting the Shujaaz comic,” and you begin to understand #PesaPersonas and the Touch Doh app. Still in beta testing, Touch Doh uses Shujaaz time-tested ability to communicate with young people, it uses animation to track young people’s income and expenditures, portraying one’s financial life like a video game.

“Touch Doh gamifies the experience of budgeting, it makes it fun, engaging and allows me to tell the story of my money,” said Qubu, “I feel like I can take charge of my life by taking charge of my finances!” 

Most importantly, its developed in partnership with Kenyan youth. Because if we’re going to help young people, we have to listen to them first.

In honor of World Youth Skills Day, Download the Touch Doh app from the Google Play Store and let us know what you think! Tweet FSD here and Well Told Story here.

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