iMali: Changing financial literacy one game at a time

Give someone a fish and they can eat. But teach them to fish… This is well-known advice that has lasted the ages, because it makes complete sense. Knowledge is power, after all.


But not all such sayings are always true. For example, those who can’t do, teach. Is that really accurate? Not at all. Teaching someone isn’t a simple task, which is why it’s often just easier to hand out fish instead of fishing rods.


Kurt Vonnegut has called teaching the most noble task in a democracy. One can also argue that financial emancipation is as important as gaining knowledge. This is the goal of iMali, an online game that guides people towards understanding personal finances, money management and how their choices around money shape their futures.


iMali was developed  through collaboration between thryve and Actuaries Without Frontiers (AWF), an Actuarial Society of South Africa (ASSA) committee. AWF is a non-profit organisation with the mission “to initiate, aid and enable financial upliftment and social development through skills and resources available within the South African actuarial community.”


To meet this outcome iMali was developed to represent the life of a virtual citizen. Players sign up for free and play the game entirely within their web browser. A game is typically ten cycles – ten years – during which players make choices such as the jobs, education and assets they pursue, seeing the consequences of those choices play out.


For example, a new car and nice house are very attractive, but are they the best choices for someone just starting their career? How does the choice between a job and an education impact their long-term earnings? Do they remember those unexpected costs, such as a car breaking down, when they think of tomorrow?


This is what iMali provides: a virtual environment where players can see these choices play out. Developed by thryve, it utilises financial formulas and models provided by the AWF. iMali may be a virtual game, but it is grounded in sound money management principles, that anyone can learn from when playing the game .


Recently attendees at the ASSA 2017 Convention, held in Johannesburg, did just that. They visited the AWF and iMali booth, where the game was demonstrated to interested professionals. Those experiencing iMali for the first time commented on its appeal to younger people and several expressed interest in using iMali as part of their corporate social initiatives in 2018. Rajiv Kumar Singh, Team Lead at AWF for iMali said:


“Financial literacy is a core life skill and one which is not taught in most schools and universities.  When those students start working, they need to start making choices that have an impact on their financial future. This game helps bridge that divide in teaching money management concepts. A special thank you to thryve and team for helping the iMali team of AWF in making this tool to teach these concepts.”


iMali is ever evolving. Those at the conference were among the first to see the new design, featuring enhanced visuals and other tweaks. Hard work had been put in by members of AWF to set up financial formulas to calculate rates throughout the game to be realistic and accurate. The game is highly adjustable by non-programmers, and so it can stay current and continually evolve to improve.


“We are very proud of the iMali game and its good reception at the ASSA conference,” said Albie Janse van Rensburg, Web Applications Manager at thryve. “There is so much upliftment potential through educational games and this is a good example of how technology can help South Africa rise above its challenges. The more people we can introduce to iMali, the brighter the future starts to look.”


You can experience iMali today. Just visit, sign up for free and see how well your financial skills can get you through life.


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