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Featured Member: The Amhara Credit and Savings Institution (ACSI)

The Amhara Credit and Savings Institution (ACSI) partners with UNCDF to provide 170,000 youth with savings accountsACSI Youth Savers

The Amhara Credit and Saving Institution (ACSI) (http://www.acsi.org.et/), licensed as a microfinance institution in 1997, aims to improve the economic situation of low-income, productive poor people in Ethiopia through increased access to lending and saving services. As in many developing countries, low income youth represent one of Ethiopia’s largest and most vulnerable populations: 46 percent of the Ethiopian population is under the age of 15[1] and another 28 percent between the ages of 15 and 29 years.[2] ASCI recognizes that building young people’s assets, specifically savings, can have a range of positive social and economic impacts, not only on the individuals, but on households and the country at large.

In order to better understand the financial needs of this unique youth demographic, ACSI collaborated with the United Nations Capital Development Fund’s (UNCDF) YouthStart program to conduct youth-friendly market research with existing and potential clients. Through this process, ACSI identified a new savings product for young people between the ages of 12 and 24. The service was piloted with 4,000 youth in ten ACSI branch offices, and is scheduled to be rolled out in July, 2012. ACSI aims to reach 170,000 youth savers and 103,000 active youth borrowers by 2014. Ninety-four percent of these clients will also receive one or more non-financial service offering, including financial education, life skills training, or business development services. By 2014 the program expects to reach a portfolio of Birr 288,553,153 (US$ 16,013,800) in savings and Birr 262,216,122 (US$ 14,552,200) in credit.

ACSI’s Youth Saving Product - Ra-ey: ACSI named its youth savings product Ra-ey, which means “Vision” in Amharic. During the market research it became clear that young people associate having a savings account with having a vision for their future, as it helps them set life goals and strategize for reaching them. The product concept testing process confirmed these findings.

Target Population: Girls and boys between the ages of 12-24 years. Fifty percent of the youth savers are girls.

Terms: Market research findings showed a demand for a flexible savings account with limited usage fees. The Ra-ey savings account has an unlimited deposit policy and no restrictions on the frequency or amount of deposits or withdrawals. Youth clients must maintain a minimum opening and operating balance of Birr 5 (US$ 0.28), which is the same as for adult accounts.

Marketing: ACSI also understands that outreach to young people requires distinct marking strategies. By placing marketing and selling centers at schools and universities, as well as at the kebele levels, ACSI expects to reach young people who would otherwise not come into contact with a financial service provider.

Cross-Selling: In addition to the social benefit that savings accounts have for youth clients, ACSI believes that investing in the development of a youth-friendly savings account today will help the organization’s capacity to cross-sell other financial products in the future. ACSI expects that satisfied youth savers will become loyal customers who will choose to continue banking with ACSI as they graduate to more lucrative services, such as money transfer services. ACSI expects to tailor these products directly to the specific needs of young people as well.

Staff Training: In order to ensure that it can provide its clients with the best service possible, ACSI trains all senior staff, including management, board members, steering committee members, and branch managers, on youth-inclusive financial services. ACSI adapted curricula from Making Cents International’s Sound Practices in Youth-Inclusive Financial Services training to help staff understand the strategic importance for ACSI to include youth targets in its financial services and how to incorporate youth-friendly practices into all of its operations. By obtaining staff buy-in at all levels of management, ACSI is able to more effectively cater to this population’s unique needs.

In addition to the Ra-ey savings account, ACSI serves approximately 320,000 youth between the ages of 12 and 24 with loans, which comprise approximately 25 percent of its total client portfolio. Through condominium loans, which include supplemental technical training on producing bricks; MSE loans; Enterprise Development Facility loans; and UNDP-supported loans, ACSI has disseminated approximately US$ 53,840,544 in credit line to young people.

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