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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -Credit Union Time recenty interviewed Jackson Rwakishaija, chairman of the Uganda Cooperative Savings and Credit Union (UCSCU) – a national credit union association – about his quest to expand credit union services in Uganda and what he has learned from U.S. credit unions. Excerpts follow: CU Times: Can you provide background information on the credit union movement in Uganda and on your experience? Rwakishaija: Credit unions in Uganda, referred to as Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs), started in 1913. Like other institutions, they have been affected by bad government, especially the brutal Idi Amin regime, which killed credit union members and destroyed property and infrastructure. With current political stability in Uganda, the SACCOs are growing in number and quality. I joined Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs) in 1978 when I started working. From 1981, I started serving on different sub-committees. Since1989, I have served as chairman of MEDECOS SACCO. I have also served on the UCSCU Board since 1999 and as chairman since 2001. For two years, I was chairman for leagues in 12 East African countries. Although my basic training was in Meteorology, I am a student of Business Management and have also attended credit union training programs within Uganda and elsewhere in Africa. I am an active participant in both community and church leadership, which has made me appreciate the role credit unions play in society to create a better, more secure tomorrow. CU Times: What are your biggest challenges in advancing credit unions in your country? Rwakishaija: HIV/AIDS is killing the most active and productive age group of our credit unions, and this puts pressure on both unions and insurance. It also leaves many orphans who will be a security risk in the future. A poor culture of saving and not repaying debt is common in our community and Africa at large. The low level of education of the majority of the population makes it difficult to even discuss prudential financial standards. Corruption and mismanagement by some SACCO leaders is also a challenge. Member education, SACCO supervision and audit services are still on thin ground and insufficient. CU Times: What services does your league provide in Uganda? Rwakishaija: UCSCU provides education to credit union boards, members and management. We provide supervisory service support, as well as insurance services to credit unions, and loans under Central Finance Fund. UCSCU provides finance measurement and standardization to ensure quality services and quality SACCOs. We advocate for credit unions at the national and international level. CU Times: You spoke at the Louisiana Credit Union League Convention. What was your message? Rwakishaija: In my leadership roles, I have seen the poor people in a number of African countries and know they can help themselves if they get assistance. More importantly, I have seen and appreciated the role and activities of WOCCU and the impact they have made in Uganda and other countries. WOCCU has made the lives of individuals and groups worth living. They have created awareness of the danger in gap between the haves and have-nots. I appealed to credit union organizations worldwide, including CUNA and LCUL, to support WOCCU in Africa. I gave the Uganda movement as a test case outlining its development, importance of credit unions and challenges, role of WOCCU and performance in Uganda and the way forward for UCSCU. I also highlighted the importance of supporting the poor for equity, humanity and world peace. Q: What information did you gain from the convention that will benefit you? Rwakishaija: I appreciated the organization of Louisiana credit unions, as well as the level of discussion at Board meetings and the General Meeting. The setup and processes were a good lesson to me. Information exchange among credit unions, in addition to highly organized paperwork, harmony and unity at LCUL is a wonderful example for us in Uganda and Africa. Convention delegates’ behavior is a test standard for us. Also, having exhibitions during the convention was interesting. Exhibitors are not featuring anywhere on the African continent. This is something we must copy. It was educational and at the same time generated income for the league. We only display one banner with names and logo for the league. -

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