Through partnerships with U.S. universities and a series of interactive classroom activities, community-based projects, and site visits to U.S. cities of all sizes, Study of U.S. Institutes (SUSI) for Global Student Leaders students experience an in-depth investigation into program themes and enhance their understanding of American values. Read on to hear about SUSI alum’ Ahmed Maknine’s impact.
My project, titled “$MART MONEY – Unlocking Financial Literacy: Your Path to Financial Freedom Starts Here,” was designed to address the issue of poor financial literacy in Tunisia, specifically targeting the youth. The project involved organizing a series of 3-hour conferences in four different cities across Tunisia, including Sousse, Monastir, Mehdia, and Binzart.
Understanding financial concepts includes understanding how the economy functions, basic accounting principles, the importance of compound interest, the time value of money, and insights into the stock market. These essential financial topics are not covered in the existing educational curriculum in Tunisia. The current state of financial inclusion in Tunisia stands at 40%, with less than 1% of the population engaging in stock market investments. These statistics underscored the pressing need to enhance financial literacy in the country. To address this issue, I targeted a total of 200 high school and college students ranging in age from 14 to 24. Some participants even invited their parents, broadening the project’s impact.
The project’s main impact was measured through a combination of methods. During the conferences, I actively engaged participants through informative slides, quizzes, and discussions. I covered key financial terminology, explained how an economy grows, emphasized ways to increase output through leverage, discussed the basics of investment, and highlighted the relationship between risk and return. Additionally, I delved into different types of investments and the importance of portfolio diversification.
To further encourage active participation and learning, I conducted a quiz at the end of each conference, with a $10 bill as the prize (in Tunisia, dollar bills are important). This approach motivated participants to apply the knowledge gained during the conference in a practical context.
In terms of feedback and evaluation, I shared a Google form with the participants, seeking their impressions of the conference. The results were thankfully positive, with an average rating of 4.32 out of five for overall satisfaction with the conference and 4.21 out of five for the likelihood of recommending the conference to a friend.
The conference’s success was a result of a productive partnership with AIESEC, an NGO that handled project management while I focused on content presentation and advertising. I leveraged my social media presence, which accounts for over 150,000 followers on Instagram, to ensure a wider reach and participation in the project. Their professionalism was pivotal, and without their support, these events would not have come to fruition. Impressively, we managed to organize, advertise, and prepare 400 slides of content in just one month, a testament to the efficiency and dedication of our collaborative team effort, ultimately providing valuable financial education to the participants.
In summary, the project, “$MART MONEY – Unlocking Financial Literacy,” sought to address the critical issue of low financial literacy in Tunisia by targeting high school and college students. Through a series of engaging conferences and quizzes, I aimed to empower participants with essential financial knowledge, with promising results and positive feedback indicating the project’s success in improving financial literacy among the youth in Tunisia.
In the future, my goal is to expand my project further. I plan to pursue a master’s degree and then spend two years building a team. Together, we will travel through Tunisia, the Middle East, and Africa to host workshops and conferences. The aim is to address ambiguous questions about the world of investment in Tunisia. I believe this mission is adaptable and can tap into new market opportunities, including app and website development in the fintech industry and online education in finance and economics. The potential for social and economic impact in Tunisia while raising financial literacy is vast. The sooner I start taking action, the better I will understand the demand for this kind of knowledge. Ultimately, I plan to dedicate at least half a decade to this mission as a top priority, focusing on it daily and seeking answers to important but often neglected questions.
My participation in the SUSI program profoundly impacted the execution of my project. Before joining, I had contemplated this project for over a year. However, SUSI served as a catalyst, motivating me to take concrete action. Interactions with faculty members, notably Prof Atul Sheel and Prof Leonce Ndikumana at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst provided me with invaluable knowledge and insights, especially in economics and finance. The lectures and discussions helped me address the issues I wanted to tackle in my home country. Furthermore, mentorship during SUSI helped me develop crucial leadership and presentation skills, boosting my confidence and proficiency in delivering effective presentations. This newfound foundation gave me the motivation and direction needed to kickstart the project. Within a month after the program, I made significant progress.
Finally, here’s concise advice for someone interested in leading a similar community action plan:
- Avoid scheduling two events on the same day to prevent exhaustion and stress.
- Hosting more than one event per week encourages continuous improvement.
- Collaborate with NGOs, friends, and teachers for conference success.
- Collect post-event feedback via Google Forms to identify areas for improvement.
- Use multi-lingual slides (e.g., Arabic, French, English) for a global perspective and potential international presentations. Think big!
Ahmed Maknine of Tunisia participated in Meridian’s 2023 SUSI for Global Student Leaders on Economic Empowerment, in partnership with the Civic Initiative at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.