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Celebrating International Youth Day: A Spotlight on Match Savings

By Deborah Foy, Executive Director Opportunity International UK

Uganda has one of the youngest populations in the world, with more than 75% below the age of 30. It also has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in sub-Saharan Africa. Young people struggle to find decent work and opportunities – especially in rural areas.

In early 2020, Opportunity International began working with a number of youth-focused partners providing services and support to rural youth in the Mityana District, near Kampala.[1] To date, we’ve trained more than 1,440 youth in entrepreneurship skills, leading to the creation of 48 group businesses, and over 1,000 youth have opened savings accounts.

Opportunity International is testing different approaches that provide insights into building the financial resilience of young people.

In Uganda ‘Match Savings’ are motivating good money behaviour among young people.


What are Match Savings?

Opportunity International’s long history of providing savings accounts to low-income communities has taught us that the introduction of relatively small changes can result in large impacts in savings outcomes. These include incentives and behavioural nudges to encourage our clients to use their savings accounts or to support the accumulation of balances – whether these be prizes for reaching savings goals, attractive savings rates, account opening giveaways, or shopping discounts.

Our local partners identified the need to introduce incentives to promote positive savings behaviour amongst rural youth in Mityana, alongside entrepreneurship training and access to start-up capital. Following market research, the team decided to pilot a ‘Match Savings’ component which aims to:

  • Provide small rewards to behaviour consistent with the long-term goal of increasing savings, e.g. a saver accesses $1 in match for every $1 saved.
  • Give an incentive for young people to save regularly.
  • Be used for building assets, e.g. education, or starting a small business. 

Case Study: Step by Step Bulabakulu Youth Group

The Step by Step Youth Group is located in Maanyi sub-country, Mityana District.

Like many youth groups in the area, members rely on farming as a main source of employment.

After receiving training, the group opened a savings account with Opportunity Bank of Uganda, where they deposited around £900. They accessed a match of £90, which they used to help purchase a milling machine to gain value addition on locally grown groundnuts.

This year, the group has used their savings as security to access a start-up loan from the bank for agricultural inputs.

Ugandan youth savings group


Next Steps

Ultimately, we hope to contribute to industry learning around whether subsidised matched savings accounts can incentivise savings and help very disadvantaged young people to save. There is a gap in the existing evidence base, with most of the studies to date focusing almost exclusively on low-income families in the United States. Relatively little is known about the emerging matched savings programmes in sub-Saharan Africa, where a significant proportion of the population live on less than US$2 a day.

Watch this space… as we learn and grow, working with our youth clients to adapt and develop our programme to support the development of sustainable livelihoods.

Follow this link to read more about our work with youth in other countries too and see how we're supporting young entrepreneurs as they transform their own lives. 


[1] These include Hanns R Neumann Stiftung (HRNS), Teach a Man to Fish, Opportunity Bank of Uganda.

[2] Match Savings can be offered as a policy option by a government, as in the case of the Child Trust Fund and Help to Save in the UK, and Taiwan’s family development accounts for low-income families.

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