Madison, WI— The World Council of Credit Unions, Inc.'s (WOCCU) new $1.1 million dollar Afghanistan project enters its first stages of implementation as a credit union pilot project.
WOCCU-Afghanistan project—the Pilot Financing of Microfinance Investment and Support Facility for Afghanistan—is funded by the World Bank, through MISFA, the Microfinance Investment Facility for Afghanistan, based out of Kabul.
Edgar Comeros, newly appointed WOCCU- Afghanistan project manager, joins the project at a key moment—as of May 20, WOCCU had signed a lease for the first credit union office, to be located in the town of Mazar-I-Shariff, and expects to sign a lease for a second credit union office shortly. The Project calls for the creation of three credit unions in eighteen months, to be located in Mazar-I-Shariff, Pul-I-Khumrie and Hirat. The locations were chosen due to their thriving economies, with busy public markets, factories, agriculture, access by car or plane and government leaders who are progressive and willing to support such an activity.
Comeros, a veteran in the Philippine credit union and cooperative movement, is now confronted with these challenges. Comeros explained," Cooperatives have been so good to me," in his more than 30 years of development work and he continued by saying, "if you have a blessing, you have a mission."
Despite high hope, this project will not be easy. There is currently no legislation, no defined regulatory body, laws or any framework for credit unions to begin. Curtis Slover, WOCCU product development and technical services manager explained, "We will work towards these issues with government bodies to introduce legislation. In the meantime we will incorporate the proposed draft legislation WOCCU supports into project credit union bylaws." Slover continued, "Project credit union bylaws will be signed and officially stamped by the governor of the Mazar-I-Shariff region, which adds legitimacy to the operating framework and sets boundaries for operation."
"WOCCU will draft into the credit union bylaws, with particular emphasis on regulations addressing capital adequacy, maximum loan size as a percentage of capital, and loan loss provisioning," noted Slover.
Slover explained, "Afghanistan will be one of our more difficult development projects—related to finding educated staff members for the project. There has been no formal educational system in the country since the beginning of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, close to twenty years ago. Basic primary educated individuals, with less than a third grade education are difficult to locate." "We are even looking for Afghanistan refugees in Pakistan to fill the roles of credit union manager, accountants and tellers—people who have basic math experience and can type."
It will not be simple creating a smooth and efficient credit union structure in a country ravaged by war, extreme poverty, violence and crumbling infrastructure. But WOCCU's experience in other developing countries like Lao People's Democratic Republic, Uzbekistan, Rwanda and others has shown that it is possible, and is very important. Credit unions play an important role in rebuilding countries like Afghanistan, creating hope where it is rare.
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.