For Immediate Release

May 28, 2009

New York, NY – Associate Professor Fred Ssewamala will be collaborating with the Bayelsa State government of Nigeria to design and implement a pilot program for child development accounts (CDAs). The program, which is facilitated by the World Bank, would be the first of its kind in Nigeria and at the state level in Africa.

The CDA pilot program aims to reduce poverty in Bayelsa by addressing the major social and economic challenges faced by the Nigerian state government. These include retaining students in the education system and providing access to financial resources. Youth who leave the education system lack adequate skills training or employment opportunities. Beyond education, access to financial resources is extremely low. Only 10.3% of Bayelsans have access to financial services, and financial institutions are present in only three of the eight Bayelsan districts.

To help mitigate these challenges, Dr. Ssewamala will partner with the New America Foundation to implement a three-year program introducing structured and incentivized CDAs for 1,000 underprivileged children in all 8 districts of Bayelsa. The goal will be to encourage continued education, reward skills acquisition through vocational training and/or higher education, reward positive savings behavior, and provide the means for self-employment opportunities.

CDA programs evaluated around the world have shown significant impact on children. For example, as CDA-receiving children understand that they have resources set aside to fund their future development and success, they are more likely to have hope for their future, develop anticipatory planning skills, and reject risky behaviors.

“By providing children with a tool that teaches financial management and planning, they will have a more equitable chance at an improved and stable life,” says Dr. Ssewamala. “They will also better understand their self-worth and capabilities.”

Dr. Ssewamala is an expert on international social and economic development. His SUUBI (Hope) project in Uganda is supported by several organizations, including the National Institutes of Health. This project focuses on asset-ownership development, including CDAs, and creating life options through economic empowerment models for Orphaned and Vulnerable Children. He is also currently researching the feasibility of economic empowerment interventions in poor African immigrant communities in the urban U.S.

For more information, or to interview Dr. Ssewamala, please contact Jeannie Hii at 212-851-2327 or jy2223@columbia.edu.

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