Demystifying financial literacy is pivotal to democratising finance. The state of saving in South Africa is dire at about 13.3 percent of gross domestic product, which is lower than its peers.
This is exacerbated by the materialistic society we have become, characterised by instant gratification. Behavioural change is necessary to change this trajectory, especially through influencing the knowledge, attitude and skills of the young so they grow up with good saving habits.
Guided by an age-old Zulu maxim that has become the motto of our programme, ligotshwa limanzi, meaning “you best shape a stick when it is still moist”, we introduced the Banking Association SA’s generic financial literacy programme Teach Children to Save SA (TCTS SA) in July 2008. This year’s theme for the programme is Democratising Youth Finance.
Financial education has become crucial for the future financial well-being of citizens and the stability of the financial and economic system. The financial crisis, the increasing sophistication of financial products and the strides taken in financial inclusion have made it a much-needed skill in order to successfully navigate and manage one’s money.
The long-term implications of low levels of financial literacy in the majority of the population are prompting the government to take action.
In July last year, the National Treasury ratified the consumer financial education strategy. Economic management science is part of the school curriculum and is made up of 40 percent financial literacy and 30 percent entrepreneurship while 30 percent is devoted to the economy in Grades 7 to 9, where TCTS SA is located.
TCTS SA has decided to adopt an innovative approach for a delivery mechanism other than lessons in class. The EduCamp is a combined camp and fun day.
Games, story-telling and cinema are used. The aim is to ingrain in the minds of children the concepts they cover in class. The Chinese have a saying: “Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I may remember. But involve me, and I’ll understand.”
Financial democracy ensures holistic democracy. US economist and author Robert Shiller once wrote: “Finance is a technology of great power. This power should serve the people, should be made available to everyone.
“The financial crisis that began in 2007 as the result of the twin bubbles in the stock market and the housing market shows that much more work needs to be done to democratise finance. The crisis occurred because the principles of financial risk management were not being applied to the widest possible population.”
Robert Kiyosaki, in his book Unfair Advantage: The Power of Financial Education, states there are five components of financial education: history, definitions, taxes, debt and two sides to every coin.
He writes that we need real financial education before the world economy truly recovers and he believes it is better to teach people to fish than to give people fish. Money does not make us rich. Knowledge does.
This is the power of real-life financial education and the reason knowledge is an unfair advantage, according to Kiyosaki. These observations map out the importance of demystifying financial literacy and democratising finance to ensure that populations are as financially well versed as they are politically as a measure of well-achieved democracy.
Within that spirit of democracy, it is fitting for the Banking Association of SA, in partnership with the Imbumba Foundation, to continue one of former president Nelson Mandela’s education legacies.
This partnership is realised through the Trek4Mandela 2014 expedition, which launches today in Durban for its third consecutive year.
The renowned Sibusiso Vilane and Richard Mabaso, accompanied by other climbers, are determined to conquer the third-highest continental point – Uhuru Peak on Mount Kilimanjaro – on July 18, International Nelson Mandela Day.
Trek4Mandela was launched in 2012 as a vehicle to mobilise resources to support Caring4Girls, an initiative that supports needy girls with sanitary towels and dialogue, including discussions about finance.
* Fikile Kuhlase is the senior general manager for the socio-economic growth and development division at the Banking Association of SA.