Amid Conflict, Afghans Put Hope in New Credit Unions (IFCs)
A Samangan IFC member makes his mark to receive his first loan.
Madison, WI—World Council of Credit
(WOCCU) and the United States Agency for
International Development (USAID) joined the
Afghan people in opening three new investment
and finance cooperatives (IFCs or credit unions)
February 26-March 5 in Ayback, Puli-Khumri and
Jalalabad, Afghanistan. The final opening in
Jalalabad took place in a dangerous environment,
as an unrelated improvised explosive device
(IED) had detonated a day earlier just four
miles down the road.
Despite the tense situation in Jalalabad, an
Afghan government representative and World
Council staff joined some fifty proud Afghans at
Nangarhar IFC to celebrate the opening of their
first community-owned financial institution.
The assistant governor of Baghlan and Baghlan IFC's chairwoman officially open the IFC in Puli-Khumri.
"Even IED explosions aren't enough to
Afghans from rebuilding their local economies
and civic societies after decades of war and
oppression," explained Randy Spears, WOCCU-
Afghanistan project director. "As member-owned
financial cooperatives, the IFCs not only
provide their Afghan members with access to much
needed savings and loan services, but they also
empower them to take active roles in democratic
Farther north the previous week, close to 80
Samangan IFC members celebrated their IFC
opening in Ayback, and 100 members at
neighboring Baghlan IFC celebrated their grand
opening in Puli-Khumri. At each of the three
celebrations, members representing the farming
and business sectors invested withdrawable
shares and received the IFCs' first loans
ranging from approximately US$300 to US$500.
Nangarhar IFC staff pose for a photo at the grand opening of their IFC in Jalalabad.
Spears said that everyone in attendance loved
the idea of ownership and all were beaming at
the celebrations. In his welcome speeches at the
grand openings, he reminded members that they
were the owners of the IFCs.
The four-member interim boards of directors
each IFC attended the openings. Women are
represented on all the boards, and the board
chairperson of Baghlan IFC is a woman. The new
IFCs will hold general assemblies in April to
elect board members. Following the speeches and
first disbursement of loans, there was an
official ribbon cutting and customary lunch for
Since the establishment of IFCs in
three years ago, total membership in the five
institutions has grown to more than 5,500. World
Council is currently working with staff at
Afghanistan's first two IFCs—Balkh IFC and
Jawzjan IFC—to open three branch offices
in the north. Plans are also underway to
establish a national association.
World Council's work to develop IFCs in
Afghanistan is funded by the Academy for
Educational Development (AED) under its USAID-
funded Agriculture, Rural Investment and
Enterprise Strengthening (ARIES) Program and the
Microfinance Investment and Support Facility for
Afghanistan (MISFA). The WOCCU-Afghanistan
staff, a USAID representative, AED
representatives, delegates from the provincial
governor's office and a female member of
Parliament, Najia Aimaq, celebrated with the new
IFC members at the grand openings.
World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development agency for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach.
World Council has implemented more than 290 technical assistance programs in 71 countries. Worldwide, 57,000 credit unions in 105 countries serve 217 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.