MADISON, Wis. -- Rural poor residents in the mountainous countryside of Bolivia are among those the World Council of Credit Unions most wants to reach with its new awareness campaign, according to an announcement from the international credit union body.
As with previous efforts, WOCCU is working with the U.S. Agency for International Development on the attempt.
Though the financial sector is the biggest industry in Bolivia and is an international leader in providing microfinance, it has yet to reach the most underserved areas of the country, WOCCU said. While USAID and WOCCU have traditionally focused on strengthening credit unions and their products in their collaborative programs, the new program aims to unite the financial system to increase Bolivian citizens' access to financial services in these areas.
"The idea is to strengthen all financial institutions so that their services will reach the markets that most need them," explained Rolando Salazar, WOCCU-Bolivia director. He said the announcement made great waves throughout the country and was enthusiastically received.
Among the program's components is the development and implementation of Rural Finance Expansion Grants available to Bolivia's financial sector to encourage innovation and expansion of financial services. Any financial institution will be able to apply for grants through USAID and WOCCU to downstream their services and integrate the financial sector as a whole.
The three-year, $2.4 million program will also build upon the ServiRed national shared branching network established by the previous USAID-funded WOCCU-Bolivia project to expand remittances, card and ATM services and provide training and technical assistance to increase outreach.
The 23 credit unions supervised by the Superintendent of Banks in Bolivia have combined savings of $250 million and $231 million in loans. With 82 collective service points in ServiRed, credit unions form one of the largest financial networks in the country, WOCCU said. --firstname.lastname@example.org