The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) recently awarded $2.4 million to World Council of Credit Unions, Inc. for a three-year financial sector support program in Bolivia.
The new project will expand upon World Council's existing USAID-funded project in Bolivia, which ends in December. It will focus on improving the economic and social well-being of the rural population in underserved areas through commercial and governmental initiatives.
Fundamental to the project is building the capacity of influential entities of the credit union movement: local and national governments, trade associations, financial institutions, community organizations, donors, media, businesses, farmers and the underserved population.
"Our overall objective is to empower Bolivian professionals and financial institutions through training and assistance to extend their outreach," said Rolando Salazar, Bolivia project director. "Ownership is the key to long-term sustainability."
Because credit unions lack a forum for collaboration with microfinance entities outside their movement, World Council will help form the Association of Financial Sector Trade Associations (AFSTA). The association will unite microfinance trade associations, including World Council member, Asociación Técnica de Cooperativas (ATC), to foster cooperation and growth. The new association will participate in shared lobbying efforts, networking and training.
World Council also plans to distribute Rural Finance Expansion Grants to credit unions and microfinance institutions to help increase their access to rural areas. More than 400,000 Bolivians belong to a credit union, yet a large number of the rural population and businesses lack access to loan and deposit services.
The microfinance industry in Bolivia collectively offers traditional financial services such as checking, savings, certificates of deposit, loans, credit cards, remittances, foreign exchange and online banking. World Council's existing project established Bolivia's first shared branching and remittances network, "ServiRed," in 2005. Sixty-two points of service throughout Bolivia now offer IRnet® remittance services, savings accounts and loans through national shared branching. The new World Council project will increase the number of ServiRed credit unions and expand card and ATM services.
"The outreach of Bolivian credit unions and ATC has grown significantly," said World Council CEO, Pete Crear. "While introducing ServiRed and IRnet®, World Council also helped the movement establish eight rural credit unions in Bolivia in the past two years. It's exciting to be part of such a progressive movement that keeps a keen eye on the needs of the poor."
There are 23 credit unions in Bolivia with combined savings of $250 million and $231 million in loans. With 82 collective service points, credit unions form one of the largest financial networks in the country. This is World Council's fifth project in Bolivia.
USAID administers the US foreign assistance program providing economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 80 countries worldwide.
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.