WOCCU Expands Technology Presence in Kenya
Project Focuses on Data Service Bureau and Product Development Support
MADISON, Wis.—The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has provided US$2.1 million in funding to World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) to help establish and test new financial data processing and product development capabilities for savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs), or credit unions, in Kenya.
The new two-year grant for the Kenya Data Services Bureau Project follows a November 2006 foundation grant of US$6.6 million awarded to WOCCU to implement a three-year credit union growth program designed to reach the unbanked and rural poor in Kenya, Rwanda and Colombia. Technology development supported by the new funding will help WOCCU expand that reach to credit unions and communities in rural areas, better serving an increasing number of poor Kenyans with financial services that will help support their economic growth and survival.
| WOCCU's Brian Branch greets a group of Kenyan children.
"This funding from the Gates Foundation reflects favorably on the technological innovations we believe will be effective in Kenya," said Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and COO. "Increased technical capabilities enable us to reach the rural poor in areas where no credit union branches exist. Technology enables us to increase credit union membership and provide more services to those members."
The new program focuses on technology development and deployment only in Kenya, where more than 59% of credit union members live on less than US$1 per day. Grant dollars will support the development of a central data processing service bureau in WOCCU's Nairobi office that will enable small and medium-sized rural SACCOs to reach beyond their normal service areas and meet the needs of more people. The back-office program was designed with the help of Synergent, a subsidiary of the Maine Credit Union League.
Participating SACCOs will have access to back-office accounting and operations, credit and savings administration and management information system services. Access to those services will require participating SACCOs to adopt more stringent accounting disciplines, internal controls and risk management methodologies, improving both the transparency and overall safety and soundness of SACCO operations.
| Many of the merchants in Tala, Kenya's open-air marketplace are now members of their local credit union.
The new program differs from the previous foundation-funded project, which ended in October, in its primary emphasis on technology and its single-country focus. The initial project, known as the Credit Union Growth Program, was designed to grow membership and more effectively serve the poor in Rwanda and Colombia, as well as in Kenya. The program had reached nearly 1 million new credit union members across the three countries by the project's end.
"The goal of our original program was to create a credit union growth toolkit to help participating institutions expand their outreach through innovative marketing plans, product designs and branding procedures," Branch said. "Thanks to this second round of Gates Foundation funding, we are able to further explore portable technology options in Kenya that have proven so effective in reaching the rural poor elsewhere in the world."
This grant to WOCCU is part of the Gates Foundation's Financial Services for the Poor initiative, which is working with a wide range of public and private partners to harness technology and innovation to bring quality, affordable savings accounts and other financial services to the doorsteps of the poor in the developing world. The foundation believes that setting aside small sums in a safe place allows people to guard against risks, build assets and provide opportunities for the next generation.
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.
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Contact: Rebecca Carpenter
Organization: World Council of Credit Unions