MADISON, Wis.— With 212 credit unions, a combined membership of 336,187 people and US$240 million in assets, the Cameroon Cooperative Credit Union League (CamCCUL) has a long history of success in the Central African country of Cameroon. Close adherence to credit union philosophy and a continued dedication to member service has helped the small movement prosper.
"Our smallest credit union has US$4,000 in assets, and our largest has US$34 million," said Praxedes Banseka, a CamCCUL field supervisor, on a recent visit to World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) headquarters. "We don't care how much money a credit union has, as long as it's serving its members well."
CamCCUL was founded in 1968 and worked closely with WOCCU in the 1980s and 1990s to implement several programs funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. The programs provided technical assistance to CamCCUL that furthered its institutional and management development, created a central liquidity facility, started a small farmer production credit program, expanded credit unions to new areas and provided the first computerized systems to Cameroon's movement. WOCCU's programs in Cameroon ended in 1994, and CamCCUL became a direct WOCCU member in 2007.
"The Cameroonian credit union system represents one of the great success stories in WOCCU's 40 years," said David Grace, WOCCU's senior vice president of association services. "Based on long-term and intensive development programs in the 1980s and early '90s, a strong foundation was established. We've seen this in many other countries, and that positions credit unions for strong membership growth in subsequent years." Cameroon's credit union movement has taken off, growing from 78,000 credit union members in 1993 to more than four times as many members by 2010.
Cameroon has a history of staging some of the world's largest International Credit Union Day celebrations, turning out more than 5,000 people to march in streets of local communities with thousands more observing. Collaborative radio and TV ads, cell phone programs and shared branching services have helped the movement grow and become even more successful.
Cameroon's credit unions also face many challenges, including competition from banks and informal lending groups. While 95% of the credit unions that are computerized share a common platform that CamCCUL operates, there are still many small credit unions that are not computerized. "We don't have the equipment or the infrastructure in place to provide Internet access in many areas," Banseka said.
Banseka, the daughter of a Cameroon movement founder and a 13-year credit union veteran herself, is currently studying in the United States as part of the U.S. Department of State's prestigious Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program. The 10-month program is designed to take future leaders from foreign countries and acquaint them with positive experiences in the United States. During this time she has completed an internship at Gabriels Community Credit Union in Lansing, Mich., and has plans to complete another internship in Minneapolis before returning to Cameroon.
"I've really enjoyed my time in the U.S.," Banseka said. "No matter where you go, when you are with fellow credit union colleagues you are with family, your credit union family."
To learn more about Cameroon's credit union movement, visit www.camccul.org.
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.