KZN’s battle against financial illiteracy

2014-03-14 00:00

MONEY matters were “once the preserve of men in grey suits”, said provincial finance MEC Ina Cronjé while speaking at the international Financial Education Inclusion Summit — Taking Money Matters to our Children being held at the Elangeni and Maharani Hotel on the Durban beachfront.

“This left a large number of people excluded … But we all handle money on a daily basis.” Even children.

In order to educate the general population about financial matters, the provincial treasury initiated the creation of the KZN Financial Literacy Association (KZNFLA) three years ago.

Cronjé said that in 2010 the provincial treasury decided “they had a social responsibility to share the information and knowledge that sits within Treasury … and we asked how we can use that knowledge to the benefit of the people?”

However, Cronjé said that such education was not the core task of her department and there was limited time in which they could do it.

“But there are many other organisations that have similar knowledge or better, such as banks, the Financial Services Boards and NGOs.

“We thought let’s get together — together we can do more.”

Thirty-six such organisations attended the first meeting in response to an invitation by the finance department and out of that was born the KZNFLA which has since targeted particular groups: in-school youth and out-of-school youth; women and vulnerable groups, such as those with disabilities; SMMEs and co-ops — with a view to teaching them the essentials of financial management.

Government employees are another important target group in a province that employs around 200 000 people.

Financial stress affects people’s personal lives and their health, said Cronjé, adding that it is also an ingredient in corruption and someone who is financially stressed is more susceptible to being corrupted.

Cronjé said another target group had recently been added: traditional leaders and their communities.

This is a “key programme in a province like ours”, said KZN premier Senzo Mchunu, “a province that is battling not only financial literacy but literary literacy”.

“One of the purposes of the conference was to impress on young people the importance of saving,” he said.

Speaking from Cape Town via Skype, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan emphasised the need to educate youth financially, pointing out that more and more young people in South Africa were involved in managing homes and budgets as a result of heading up parentless families. As students young people were also involved in managing college grants and bursaries.

Over 200 delegates to the conference were school pupils from Grades 9, 10 and 11, drawn from schools in Durban and surrounding areas, as well as from Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho and Botswana.

Key participants included National Treasury, Child and Youth Finance International, the Financial Services Board and the Banking Association SA, as well as the Basic and Higher Education departments.

Policy makers included representatives from treasury, regulatory bodies, academic institutions, NGOs, business, banks and researchers who, along with the school pupils, will be discussing youth finance strategies, financial education in the curriculum, youth friendly finance products, entrepreneurship, reaching young people effectively and monitoring and evaluating financial education programmes for young people.

The youth will also present to the policy-makers their ideas on a variety of financial topics.

The summit forms part of the Global Money Week activities co-ordinated by Child and Youth Finance International.

During the conference, pupils will visit banks and “be made to feel they are bankers”, said Cronjé.

She added that it was vital to educate children at an early age so that “they have the basic knowledge to make a success of their finances”.

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