Data science researchers from UK and Rwanda collaborate with the ILO to drive the global impact of financial education

An exciting collaboration between the University of Liverpool, The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in Rwanda and the ILO aims to use the power of data analytics to increase the impact of the ILO Global Programme on Financial Education and to drive positive behavioural change amongst target groups in Africa and beyond.

Article | 27 April 2023
The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences is a Pan-African initiative that gives Africa’s most talented students the opportunity to earn a master’s in mathematical sciences from world-class lectures in a 24-hour learning environment. The students live together in the Institute's centres (Cameroon, Ghana, Rwanda, South Africa and Tanzania) for nine months. This 24/7-approach facilitates a competitive and multicultural environment, driven by a passion for mathematics and desire to make a change in the African continent.

Corina Constantinescu, Director of the Institute for Financial and Actuarial Mathematics at the University of Liverpool, is currently spending her sabbatical year at the ILO’s Social Finance Programme, and has been designing research projects with her ILO colleagues. She will supervise the essay phase of the students’ projects.
“The financial education themes are extremely relevant for the African continent and the mathematical and statistical abilities of the student can contribute to the research in this space. Our students will use the latest machine learning techniques to understand the landscape of financial literacy penetration in low-income environments.”
- Corina Constantinescu, visiting scholar and supervisor of the research project

The two students who will conduct the research are Aimé Barema, a 24-year-old Rwandan and Olivier Rutherford Dondjio Nguefack, a 26-year-old from Cameroon, both currently pursuing their master’s degree in data science at the Institute.

Aimé is working on a research project to evaluate the linkages between financial literacy and personality characteristics, by analysing survey data from Guatemala, which comprises sociodemographic information of individuals and their insurance usage behaviour. This data was collected to better understand insurance users and in turn, identify effective interventions to enhance the quality and reach of insurance products and services. The dataset also includes data on financial literacy, personal traits, internet use and media exposure, which Aimé intends to analyze with statistical techniques. This research will assess the potential for predicting an individual's financial literacy level based on certain information using machine learning methods. This will also be a good opportunity for the ILO to identify new and innovative ways to promote the outreach of its Financial Education programme.

Olivier will use data from the ILO Global Programme on Financial Education’s database to assess the impact of the programme, using statistical analysis and data visualization techniques. He will attempt to identify trends among ILO Financial Education candidate and certified trainers, analyse trainers’ characteristics and understand what makes a good trainer. This research may also shed light on ways in which the ILO Global Programme on Financial Education could improve its own reporting practices and encourage the collection of impact data, useful for further research projects.
“Financial education plays a crucial role in the development of disadvantaged and underserved populations, which are particularly prevalent in Africa. With my background in Statistics as a student, I believe that I can make a significant contribution towards this effort.”
- Aimé Barema, master's student participating in the research project

Olivier mentioned the importance of financial literacy as one of the reasons he wanted to carry out this research: “As a data scientist, I am passionate about using data-driven approaches to understand the impact of educational programmes, such as the ILO Global Financial Education Programme, and to identify ways to improve them. This project fits with my interests in data analysis, education and social impact. In addition, the research project gives me the opportunity to contribute to the broader goal of promoting financial literacy and economic development in low- and middle-income countries. I am excited to work on this project as it matches my interests and allows me to have a significant impact on society.”

Prior to commencing their research, both students took the ILO’s e-learning course on financial education to familiarise themselves with the subject matter. Both agreed that it was an incredibly enriching and useful experience; Aimé: “Planning for the future, managing finances and expenses and using financial products and insurance are all critical components in realizing one's objectives. The ILO's financial education e-learning platform offers comprehensive resources on all these aspects.”