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.
El Consejo Mundial de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Crédito es la asociación gremial y agencia de desarrollo para el sistema internacional de cooperativas de ahorro y crédito. El Consejo Mundial promueve el crecimiento sustentable de las cooperativas de ahorro y crédito y otras cooperativas financieras en todo el mundo a fin de facultar a las personas para que mejoren su calidad de vida a través del acceso a servicios financieros asequibles y de alta calidad. El Consejo Mundial realiza esfuerzos de defensa activa en representación del sistema global de las cooperativas de ahorro y crédito ante organizaciones internacionales y trabaja con gobiernos nacionales para mejorar la legislación y la regulación. Sus programas de asistencia técnica introducen nuevas herramientas y tecnologías para fortalecer el desempeño financiero de las cooperativas de ahorro y crédito y profundizar su alcance comunitario.
El Consejo Mundial ha implementado 290 programas de asistencia técnica en 71 países. A nivel mundial, 57,000 cooperativas de ahorro y crédito en 105 países atienden a 217 millones de personas. Obtenga más información sobre el impacto global del Consejo Mundial en www.woccu.org.