Ecobank, the pan-African bank, is partnering with leading international children rights NGO Terre des Hommes to offer digital financial services to some of the most vulnerable children in Togo – those under the age of 18 who work or live on the streets.
Through the Safe Savings (SaVa) Project a number children in the street will be given a new, secure means to collect and bank their hard-earned income, improving their security situation as well as their own saving habits. The one-year pilot project is being launched during an event held at Ecobank's headquarters, in the Togolese capital of Lomé today.
One of the greatest fears of children living and working on the streets is being robbed, particularly at night. Currently, these children use a variety of informal savings mechanisms - leaving their earnings with trusted adults, burying their money, or trying to spend it as quickly as possible. Yet none of these mechanisms are safe or reliable.
New mobile technology can provide a pathway to transform these children's lives as they journey into adulthood. Ecobank – through its work with Terre des Hommes – is adapting its digital offerings to their needs, setting up a very simple but effective micro-savings system.
"As the leader in digital financial services in Africa, we work hard to ensure that all Africans have access to better financial services and that includes the most vulnerable members of our communities," says Ecobank's Group CEO Ade Ayeyemi. "Children in the streets are often subject to abuse, neglect, exploitation, and need our protection. By offering them a reliable and secure saving mechanism we hope we can help them protect their livelihoods and build a better future."
The first stage of the pilot project, which involves 30 children, is being rolled out in Lomé, where Ecobank is headquartered. Terre des Hommes will create a "purse" where each child can deposit their daily earnings using a mobile phone provided by the organisation. They only need to set up an Ecobank Xpress account, which can be easily done through the mobile device. Terre des Homme acts as the custodian of the children as minors are not yet eligible to open accounts.
Over the next 12 months, the SaVa Project hopes to reach a minimum of 150 children. Ecobank and Terre des Homme staff will train them so they understand how to use the app correctly. The children will also be able to give feedback on how the app can be further adapted to their specific needs.
"We work closely with the children to understand the issues they face in their daily environments," says Pierre Philippe, Director of Programmes and Technical Resources of Terre des Hommes. "As their own agents of change, we identified potential solutions together. We expect the SaVa Project will evolve over the next months to ensure we can genuinely improve the lives of children in the streets of Lomé."
(With Inputs from APO)