Washington, D.C. – Officials from Mexico's two largest credit unions, Caja Popular Mexicana and Caja Libertad, joined World Council of Credit Unions, Inc. (WOCCU) staff and representatives of the California, Texas and Arizona credit union leagues to share their stories of successful private sector-led credit union development in Mexico. The weeklong visit concluded Thursday.
During meetings with members of Congress, the delegation asked lawmakers to support microenterprise reauthorization and ensure that the full amount authorized for microenterprise programs be appropriated for fiscal year 2005. A bill now circulating in Congress proposes a modest increase in the microenterprise budget, as well as an improved mechanism for awarding foreign assistance microenterprise funding. Microenterprise funds are distributed through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and are the source of the majority of financial support for WOCCU development finance projects.
To attest to the effectiveness of WOCCU's programs, the Mexican credit union officials explained the dramatic improvement in their operations and outreach. With two years of WOCCU's assistance, membership in Caja Popular Mexicana increased by more than 60 percent and delinquency decreased by nearly 70 percent. In only one year, Caja Libertad opened four rural microfinance branches to serve very poor women and increased vital loan loss provisions from 58 percent to 100 percent. The Mexicans credited WOCCU's technical assistance and aid from their credit union league partners through WOCCU's International Partnership Program.
Credit union league partners explained that through their partnerships with the Mexican credit unions, they gain valuable insight into the Hispanic market and how to better serve the significant unbanked immigrant population in their respective states.
During a meeting with the office of Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA), WOCCU senior manager Mark Cifuentes presented a letter of endorsement, signed by WOCCU president and CEO Arthur Arnold, for legislation introduced by Baca to empower U.S. federal credit unions to offer wire transfers, money orders and check cashing to all in their communities. Click to view letter
Caja Popular Mexicana began distributing remittances in August 2003 on a pilot basis and increased distribution to 300 branches by November. As of May 2004, more than 15,000 remittances totaling $6.6 million have been distributed. Ninety-two percent of receivers are women and the overwhelming majority of receivers are credit union members. Non-members, reports the credit union, are joining at a rate of 5 percent per month, allowing them access to a full range of financial services. Using these numbers, Cifuentes stressed the importance of Baca's efforts to remove obstacles to the flow of remittances, resulting in an infusion of money in countries targeted by the U.S. for foreign assistance.
The delegation concluded their trip in Madison, WI on Friday, meeting with World Council senior management officials.
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.