Young african students in a classroom, one using a laptop, both wearing face masks / Shutterstock

28 February 2023

Advancing youth financial inclusion during the COVID-19 crisis

By Diana Schvarztein, Policy Manager, Policy Analysis and Guidance, AFI

Young people across the world have been significantly impacted by the COVID‑19 crisis. AFI members have been responding to this urgency by implementing policy actions to mitigate its consequences and facilitate recovery and resilience. In Africa in particular, some of these responses bore witness to how inclusive policymaking can help carry young people through times of crisis, especially in vulnerable segments.

Drawing on the experiences of its regional members and stakeholders, AFI has put together a report – entitled Policy Responses to COVID-19 for the Youth Population in Africa – capturing some of the most remarkable COVID-19 policy lessons and responses from the African continent.

In reference to the 5E framework (employment, education, entrepreneurship, engagement, and enabling environment), this publication analyzes the remaining challenges facing youth financial inclusion in Africa as a result of COVID-19 and presents examples of policy responses implemented. Finally, it provides recommendations for crisis mitigation and recovery, specifically focused on boosting youth financial inclusion.¹

Youth at risk as COVID-19 deepens pre-existing inequalities

Even before the pandemic, youth in many parts of the world faced many barriers to their social and economic independence. Some of these constraints have been severely exacerbated by COVID-19, specifically within the most vulnerable youth segments such as refugees, rural youth, and youth with disabilities. This was particularly evident in the following cases:

  • Youth, particularly young women, are more likely to be employed in sectors severely impacted by COVID-19. These include the informal sector, temporary employment (e.g. gig economy), and the service sector (G20 2020; OECD 2019).²
  • A main challenge to education during COVID-19 has been the lack of access to technology. This has forced many young people to rely on internet cafes, expensive mobile data, or poor technological infrastructure. Youth with disabilities were even further excluded from educational opportunities due to the lack of special provisions like sign language interpretation and braille translation in many e-learning spaces.³
  • According to the report, youth in Africa expressed particular concern over the lack of government support for innovation and entrepreneurship during the pandemic. Reduced financial resources for young entrepreneurs led to many businesses shutting down.³ According to the Mastercard Foundation, more than half of the entrepreneurs they interviewed across seven African countries saw their businesses close between 2019 and 2022.
  • Finally, findings indicated that during the pandemic, youth tended to feel excluded from decision-making at the national level, particularly on issues relating to their own lives and livelihoods.³

COVID-19 Policy Responses Supporting Youth

AFI members and public entities across Africa have been responding to the consequences of COVID-19, mitigating their impact through a variety of policy approaches, including:


“Employment programs, such as the Nigerian Youth Investment Fund have the potential to build the capacity and resilience of youth. We are calling for more policy options, more policy initiatives and a combination of policies to try and unfreeze this space for our youth so they could be resilient, they could sustain themselves and they could survive the impact of COVID.”

(Paul Oluikpe, Central Bank of Nigeria, 2021)


  • In 2020, the Kenyan government announced a youth stimulus package to promote employment, build skills and boost youth resilience during crises. The investment fund, Stawisha Mashinani (USD 37.2 million), targets youth MSMEs in the agricultural, food processing, and textiles industries, among other sectors.
  • During financial literacy week (2021), the Bank of Zambia organized a special event for youth attended by university students across the country. The objective was to boost youth financial capabilities and to trigger curiosity in the financial services sector as a career path.


A public-private partnership (PPP) is important from an employment and entrepreneurial perspective as “youth can be trained not just as employees but also as employers”.

(Rachel Mushosho, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, 2021)


A multisectoral approach to tackling youth inclusion challenges

In conclusion, the report provides policy recommendations for crisis mitigation and recovery, specifically among vulnerable youth groups. It centers on the following key areas of youth financial inclusion:




Youth populations are heterogeneous, and so should be the measures taken to tackle the challenges facing their financial inclusion. Therefore, this promising generation needs tailored policies and regulations to realize its full potential and ensure its sustainable recovery from the pandemic. Lessons learned from policy responses in Africa can be applied in other parts of the world to promote crisis preparedness,  mitigation, and recovery in the future.

The report can be found here.



¹ “This report uses the 5Es’ framework, modeled on the 4Es’ framework of the African Union’s ‘1 Million by 2021’ initiative, which aims to provide opportunities for African youth in the areas of employment, education, entrepreneurship and engagement, as these are often considered to be drivers of youth financial inclusion together with the fifth component of ‘Enabling Environment’ (or regulatory environment), which is a key pillar in AFI’s Youth Financial Inclusion Policy Framework
² G20. 2020. High-level policy guidelines on digital financial inclusion for youth, women and SMEs. Available at: G20 High-Level Policy Guidelines on Digital Financial Inclusion for Youth, Women and SMEs | GPFI; and OECD. 2019. OECD Employment Outlook 2019: The Future of work. Available at: OECD Employment Outlook 2019 : The Future of Work | OECD Employment Outlook | OECD iLibrary (
³ African Union. Office of the Youth Envoy (AU-OYE). 2020. Africa youth lead policy paper: Facts and figures of African youth agency, challenges and recovery roadmap on COVID-19. Available at:


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