ABU DHABI / WAM
Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, on Saturday underlined the importance of promoting financial literacy awareness in light of the increasing debt amongst Emirati youth. With an overwhelming statistic of 70% of Emiratis under the age of 30 being in debt, there is a clear need for a scalable programme that can teach young people relevant skills and empower them to make positive contributions towards building a prosperous and sustainable future for the nation.
Sheikha Shamma explained that financial literacy is recognised worldwide as a growth driver for Small and Medium enterprises (SMEs), as young people across the region are being urged to become entrepreneurial, recognise the end of the â€˜job for lifeâ€™ era and use innovation to create their own employment opportunities. This, despite the often cited estimate that 85% of SMEs fail and most fail due to the lack of financial acumen (and notably the ability to manage cash flows) rather than the lack of access to capital.
She stressed that building an enabling SME ecosystem cannot be achieved without educating youth on financial literacy skills and supporting them in making sound financial decisions, which in turn is vital to support the realisation of UAE Vision 2021. She further emphasised that it is our role to provide youth with the skills to better manage their debt through practical learning opportunities on how to manage their personal finances and making sound financial decisions.
Sheikha Shamma went on to say that it is through grassroots initiatives such as the Emirates Foundationâ€™s (EF) financial literacy programme ‘Esref Sah’ which means ‘smart spending’, that we are able to reach youth and make a direct impact on their lives. “Financial literacy is a critical life skill in todayâ€™s world and an individualâ€™s ability to make informed and responsible financial decisions contributes to a more successful and sustainable economy. Through Esref Sah I aim to inspire and enlighten youth about the global issue of financial illiteracy,” she said.
This high level endorsement is aligned with Sheikha Shammaâ€™s commitment to youth and sustainable development, her strong philanthropic values and concern for humanitarian issues, and mission to offer strong leadership that will encourage, educate and inspire communities in relation to valuable initiatives such as youth financial literacy.
Clare Woodcraft-Scott, CEO of the Emirates Foundation said that eradicating financial illiteracy is a collective effort and requires a holistic approach. “As a Foundation, we believe strongly in the power of collaboration amongst all key players in order to eradicate the problem and ensure the root causes are permanently resolved. This requires the intervention and full collaboration of the public sector to engage in educational and public awareness campaigns, the private sector to provide financial support thereby enhancing the potential impact of the training, and of course our role as a Foundation to outreach and deliver to the Youth,” she said.
“Today, there is an urgent need for a national approach to building financial literacy and integrating it into society as a fundamental component. The Ambassadorship of Sheikha Shamma reflects her profound understanding of the challenges our youth face today and is essential to support the Foundation in scaling this innovative programme, which will no doubt become a regional and international showcase and an example of the forward-thinking vision of the UAEâ€™s leaders,” she continued.
Maytha Al Habsi Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Emirates Foundation said, “The ambassadorship of Sheikha Shamma for Esref Sah is a great honour for EF and for the youth of the UAE. She will help shed light on the challenges facing youth and encourage their adoption of healthy financial practices.”
EF’s Esref Sah programme is the first UAE-wide initiative aimed at adopting positive financial behavior among youth and building skills to advance their own economic progress.
The programme addresses challenges facing young people in the UAE today in relation to managing their personal finances and, most notably, debt. Lack of financial literacy constitutes a significant barrier to successful business ventures for todayâ€™s youth, particularly in the areas of entrepreneurial activity, according to research.
Since its inception in mid-2013, Esref Sah has engaged over 40,000 youth across the UAE. However, EF’s priority is to scale up the programme further in order to reach more of its target audience of 15-35 year olds living in the UAE and equip them for success in the workplace.