Migrant children and young people who live on the streets in Togo face constant insecurity. They can be robbed at any time of the essential money they earn through small jobs – which they need to keep themselves alive.

To help them, Terre des hommes (TDH), the Ecobank Group and the Movement for Young African Workers (MAEJT) have launched the SaVa (safe savings) project in Togo.

The aim of the SaVa project is to protect the savings of migrant children and young people living in street situations. This pilot project will support 150 children in street situations in the Togolese capital Lomé for one year, by allowing them to manage the savings they have using a banking app.

This is a world first in child relief. SaVa was launched after a study showed one reason children and young people on the move in West Africa lived such insecure lives was the theft and misappropriation of the money they earn.

Many children carry their cash around with them, others bury the money in different places, and some of them use informal savings systems to keep their earnings. But these methods are neither safe nor sustainable, which is why a digital system of micro-saving in the places of transit and destination for migrant children and youth is desperately needed.

Small-scale banking for migrant children and youth

SaVa aims to improve the security, independence and money management skills of migrant children and young people living in street situations and working in and around the Grand Market in Lomé. This will allow the children to keep their savings safe using the ‘Ecobank Mobile’ banking app.

To make it easy for children and young people to make deposits and withdrawals, an XPRESS ECOBANK point where children can manage their money will be installed in Hope Points – reception and assistance sites for migrant children and youth which have been set up by TDH.

“When my mother died, I was abandoned and finally found myself on the beach with other kids my age. I did jobs at the Grand Market in Lomé and earned 500 F (around 0.90 USD) a day. I gave 35,000 F (around 60 USD) to a woman – but she ran away with my money,” Elie tells us. The 13-year old thinks the SaVa project is great. “We are being given support, and our money won’t be stolen anymore.”

At the project’s launch event in February, the Secretary General of the Ministry for Social Welfare – who is in charge of child protection in Togo – praised SaVa’s innovation. He invited all organisations working on child protection in Togo to strengthen their collaboration with TDH and its partners to make this pilot project successful, with a view to developing it on a larger scale.

Picture: A child selling goods in the Grand Market, Lomé. ©Tdh / Sandro Mahler