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PRETORIA, South Africa — The global recession’s impact on members of Africa’s credit unions, or SACCOs, was a popular topic among regulators at the World Council of Credit Union’s second annual African SACCO Regulators’ Roundtable last week. Forty regulators from seven African nations, Canada and the United States gathered for the two-day event sponsored by WOCCU, the Canadian Co-operative Association and the National Treasury of The Republic of South Africa.“Africa is a dynamic environment for SACCOs today,” Dave Grace, WOCCU’s vice president of association services, said. “This factor, combined with the current global economic slowdown, presents regulators with a series of challenges few regions have to face.”According to WOCCU’s 2007 statistical report, 11,849 African SACCOs serve 15.1 million members. The economic recession, coupled with other social challenges like the HIV/AIDS pandemic, raise the stakes on the importance of SACCOs to their members and the SACCOs’ continued ability to serve in the face of such crises, Grace said.Impact from the global recession could have a severe effect on food prices, which had already been rising, according to Grace. In addition, economic downturns in developed countries often result in declines in economic aid and reductions in charitable giving, all of which could present unforeseen challenges for Africa’s SACCOs.“The African Regulators’ Roundtable provided supervisors, policymakers and SACCOs an opportunity to learn from each other and build support systems across the continent,” said Jo-Anne Ferguson, CCA’s senior development director. “This is the second roundtable that we have helped to convene, and I think the need for such gatherings is greater than ever.”Regulatory and economic issues topped the agenda, and other topics included lessons learned in legislative development, designing supervisory systems appropriate for financial cooperatives and building service capacity among the continent’s SACCOs. Roundtable participants included representatives from Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda, all of which have SACCO-specific legislation in development.“This was the first time I attended the roundtable, and the wealth of knowledge and experience was really rich and diverse,” said Olaotse Matshane, director of financial inclusion for South Africa’s National Treasury. “Just when I thought I knew so much about SACCOs and their regulations, the roundtable helped me realize that I know so little and there is much South Africa can learn from other countries.”Harry Namable, acting director for the Bank of Tanzania, agreed.“I learned that while we are at different levels of development and in different environments, we have common challenges and can learn from each other,” Namable said. “Seeing the range of activities from various countries in the region helped our learning.”–[email protected]

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