Mobile phones, digital training and financial education to address child labour in rural West Africa

The power of technology is being harnessed in Mali to deliver free audio messages on child labour, including new content specifically relating to financial education, to address one of the major root causes of child labour: poverty. The financial education component aims to improve farmers’ knowledge of and increase their access to financial services.


Through the ILO’s ACCEL Africa project , teams are harnessing the power of digital technology to give rural populations access to free pre-recorded audio messages on a range of subjects, including financial education, with the aim of ending child labour.

In Mali, for example, the ILO gains direct access to hard-to-reach communities, including those who cannot read, through partner organisation Viamo’s digital platform using simple mobile phones. No data or internet connection is required to use the service. By entering a number on the phone’s keypad and selecting the language preference, people can choose from the various topics to hear relevant educational messages.

By working with local market players already supporting this target population, such digital interventions are cost effective, have the potential to reach millions of people, whilst quickly generating accurate user data to measure outreach and impact. Users can also access information anywhere, anytime and on any mobile phone making this approach accessible and convenient. In the first nine months around 500,000 people used the service.

Edgar Antonio Aguilar Paucar, ILO’s Social Finance technical officer based in Côte d’Ivoire, explains his role in developing financial education content in this context: “We took what there was already and adapted the content slightly to make it a child sensitive national financial education program. We included messaging around children’s education, including budgeting, saving, and even loan schemes available at the country level. Our messages also teach how to budget not simply for inputs, but also for labour costs to cover additional salaries.”

In this way the causes of child labour such as poverty, lack of access to social protection and financial services, basic financial planning, as well as social and gender norms are being tackled at the grassroots level.

ILO’s regional project teams are hoping to replicate the success of these digital interventions in other countries in West Africa, including Côte d’Ivoire and Uganda, and to form new partnerships in the region. “If we have more partners then we have more replication, if we have more replication, we have more people, if we have more people then we can achieve greater impact,” explains Edgar.

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