Madison, WI-At the Louisiana Credit Union League's (LCUL) 70th Annual Meeting in New Orleans, World Council of Credit Unions, Inc. (WOCCU) president and CEO, Arthur Arnold presented the Keynote address, Why International CU Development. Arnold passionately made the case for development in front of 500 Louisiana credit union leaders, while explaining that microfinance through credit unions is the most effective development tool to fight poverty and provide opportunities for millions of people to grow.
"Credit Unions or SACCOs as they are called in Africa, are unique. They are the only micro- finance institutions in the world who are self reliant, self sustainable—thanks to the credit union concept of savings mobilization, using the micro-savings to fund the micro-credit." Arnold continued, "All other institutions depend on external credit or funding from large donors, making their future very uncertain. Moreover, the cooperative, member-owned, not for profit, but for service structure of credit unions, makes sure that the financial services and products, remain affordable." WOCCU's definition of microfinance starts with microsavings, followed by micro-credit, micro-investments, micro- insurance and micro-payments.
The difference in terms of development, between the 1 billion "Have more" and the 5 billion "Have less" individuals in the world is that 80% of the "Have more" today have access to affordable financial services, whereas, only 20% of the "Have less" people can claim the same in their world. In Africa, that number is even less, 5% of the population.
"That's where credit unions come in. The U.S. credit union system is one of the great examples of what credit unions can do for the people," Arnold continued, "Africa needs to grow and credit unions are the engines for growth— providing micro-credits to micro-business, including micro-agribusiness. Let's not forget that small or micro-business are the backbone of growth, creating millions of jobs."
Arnold shared many examples of individual credit union member success stories of what WOCCU's international credit union development has contributed over the years to the success and benefit at the individual, credit union and national credit union association level. Arnold focused on Africa in his presentation in view of the interest the LCUL has in WOCCU's development work in Africa. In that context, Arnold complimented LCUL for inviting Jackson Rwakishaija, chairman of the Uganda Savings and Credit Cooperatives Association to attend their 70th Annual Meeting.
Rwakishaija, who spoke at the LCUL Business Meeting on Saturday, explained, "I am excited to be with you to share information on Ugandan credit unions and credit unions in Eastern Africa. Many strides have been made to continue to improve the services we provide to members. As we look at the challenges of the future, we are thankful that partners like Louisiana credit unions and World Council are there to assist with these issues." Rwakishaija explained that his time spent in Louisiana meeting with individual credit unions, the League and participating in annual meeting has shown him that there are many different possibilities for products, services and credit union policies within his own country.
Anne Cochran, LCUL president and CEO explained Louisiana's involvement in credit union development stating,"International development gives us a better understanding and real appreciation for the "roots" of our U.S. movement's existence and for those who have paved the way for the U.S. movement. It also helps us to appreciate our regulatory environment, both federal and state, especially when one works in countries where regulation does not exist. In the U.S., we are lucky to have deposit insurance and strong business systems in place, such as chapters, councils, leagues, CUNA and our own credit union insurance company CUNA Mutual Group (CMG)."
Cochran continued, "International development makes us acutely aware of the cooperative financial advantages that strong, well-managed credit unions can offer to under- served populations in the United States and elsewhere throughout the world. It also makes us further appreciate the passion that exists within the LCUL and enables us to develop the relationships within our own credit unions. LCUL feels privileged to be a part of the credit union movement's advancement over the years. Through legislative and regulatory advocacy actions, product and sales development and creating the fundamental building blocks for our Louisiana movement in the early years, we have grown to the levels of service our credit unions and their members enjoy today."
In closing, Arnold thanked the League and Louisiana credit unions for their continued support of WOCCU's international development initiatives, especially in Africa. "It's people— credit union people—who can and are making the difference in the lives of the world's 5 billion Have less," Arnold concluded.
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.