BANJUL, The Gambia—Despite having to cope with continuing social and economic challenges, leadership from Africa's credit union movement turned out in large numbers for World Council of Credit Union's Africa SACCO Technical Congress here last week. More than 350 volunteer leaders and staff from 18 nations studied new ways to overcome adversity and better manage their savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs), the name given to credit unions across Africa.
The week-long event, held in conjunction with WOCCU's Management Certification program, was co-sponsored by the African-American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC), the Canadian Co-operative Association, the Irish League of Credit Unions and the National Association of Co-operative Credit Unions of the Gambia. The Congress' educational sessions offered participants an excellent opportunity to tap into solutions critical to issues affecting SACCO performance, according to Hubert Hoosman Jr., treasurer for AACUC and president and CEO of Vantage Credit Union, Bridgeton, Mo.
"Africa has made tremendous progress in the areas of government, technology and the development of regulations to enhance SACCOs' ability to properly serve members," Hoosman said. "But there is still significant work to be done."
Much of that work concerns issues such as the civil unrest that shut down SACCOs and other businesses in Kenya for several weeks earlier this year, the need for even greater government oversight and credit union-specific regulations and the continuing battle against HIV/AIDs, an effort in which the SACCOs themselves have taken a stand. SACCOs in various countries have launched HIV/AIDs education and awareness programs in attempts to protect members succumbing to the disease in increasing numbers.
Congress participants came from Botswana, Burundi, The Gambia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, as well as Canada, Ireland and the United States. Officials from the government of The Gambia who attended the opening ceremonies included Fatou Lamin Faye, Secretary of State for Basic and Secondary Education; Abdoulie Bojan, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly; Sheriff Gomez, Secretary of State for Youth and Sports; Fatim Badjie Janneh, Secretary of State for Information and Communications; Bakary Sonko, Director General of the National Agricultural Development Agency; and Bamba Saho, Governor of the Central Bank of The Gambia.
Congress sessions focused on the growing need for financial services in increasingly turbulent social environments throughout Africa. Effective SACCO management has never faced a time of greater challenge, according to Sylvester Kadzola, a WOCCU director and chief executive for the Malawi Union of Savings & Credit Cooperatives.
"Given the current social and economic conditions many of us face, participation in events like WOCCU's Technical Congress has become even more important for SACCOs in Africa," said Kadzola, who represented WOCCU's board of directors at this year's event. "We're very happy to see the high attendance this year because of the commitment to member service that it represents."
The final congress and certification program for 2008 will be held in November in Bucharest, Romania. For more information and to download a registration form, visit www.woccu.org/events/mcp or contact Nicole Bice at firstname.lastname@example.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 103 countries serve 208 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.