MADISON, Wis. -- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded the World Council of Credit Unions $6.7 million to support the Foundation's efforts to grow credit unions in Africa and Latin America. The Gates Foundation also awarded $2 million to the World Council's Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions.
The money was awarded by the Gates Foundation's brand new Global Development Program, which is exploring how the use of microfinance can help alleviate poverty around the world.
"We are pleased to work with World Council of Credit Unions and the Worldwide Foundation of Credit Unions," said Sylvia Mathews, president of the Global Development Program for the Foundation. "This project represents an exciting opportunity to understand the potential of credit unions to serve new members that have been previously excluded from the financial system, and to significantly increase credit union membership of those living under $2 a day in Kenya, Rwanda and Colombia."
WOCCU will use the money to support the Credit Union Growth program, which seeks to create a Credit Union Growth Took Kit that can be used to develop credit unions in different cultures.
Pete Crear, CEO of World Council, said that the money would first flow to projects in Rwanda, Columbia and Kenya and that the amount granted actually exceeded the amount of money that WOCCU had requested.
"Credit unions serve more than 157 million people in 92 countries, but our penetration is at just about 7%. There are still many poor people out there who fall prey to predatory money lenders and lack access to financial education and services," Crear said. "Through the Credit Union Growth Program, we commit to deepening credit union outreach and dramatically increasing membership to reach those in need."
Ten credit unions in Rwanda will be pilots for French-speaking African credit unions; 10 Colombian credit unions will serve as test cases for Latin America; and up to seven credit unions in Kenya will pilot the English-speaking African program.
WOCCU selected credit unions to participate in the program based on their commitment to expand services to the poor, solvency, asset quality, membership bond, openness to change, commitment to growth and willingness to develop new products aimed at member service and growth.
WOCCU has a long history working with credit unions in Colombia, Kenya and Rwanda. After the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s, it provided technical assistance and training to revive and restart the credit union movement. WOCCU recently completed a Model Credit Union Building program in Colombia designed to ensure fiscal strength and expand access to microfinance, and has assisted Kenyan credit unions, which form the largest credit union sector in Africa, for over 20 years. The Credit Union Growth Program will create a "Credit Union Growth Tool Kit" to help credit unions expand outreach to low-income households through innovative marketing plans, product designs and branding procedures. By the year 2020, WOCCU expects to provide 46 million low-income individuals in developing countries with sustainable financial services. --firstname.lastname@example.org