Madison, WI-World Council of Credit Unions, Inc. (WOCCU) teamed up with the Canada Co-operative Association (CCA), the Irish Credit Union Foundation, and the Swaziland Association of Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SASCCO) to host the annual Savings and Credit Co- operative Association Africa (SACCA) Congress. Over 300 credit union leaders from 19 countries met in Mbabane, Swaziland to discuss issues affecting different regions and credit union movements in Africa.
Attendance this year was at a record high. "Attendance clearly demonstrates the increasing importance of credit unions in the microfinance industry in Africa," noted Erick Sile, WOCCU technical officer for Africa and a key organizer for the event. "Not only did we have credit union staff and volunteers eager to learn about ways to turn their institutions into more efficient and viable financial institutions, but we also observed an increasing number of government and central bank officials seeking best practices that will help them regulate credit unions in their countries," he continued. Sylvester Kadzola, WOCCU board director and Malawi delegate, added, "there is a growing interest in national movements to join WOCCU as direct members. It is very likely that before the end of this year there will be two or more membership applications submitted to WOCCU."
The King of Swaziland, His Majesty Mswati III was a special guest at the conference, as was the Prime Minister. In his opening speech, the King welcomed participants to his country and encouraged the SACCOs to continue to reach out to the underserved. He spoke of the threat HIV/AIDS poses to Africa and asked everyone involved in the cooperative movement to act as an agent to fight against the spread of this deadly disease. He also praised the credit union movement for the role it plays in the Swaziland economy by reaching out to people in the rural areas and offering financial services to the vast majority of Swazi who are not served by commercial banks.
The SACCA Congress gathers representatives of savings and credit cooperatives (African credit unions) on a yearly basis to exchange ideas and perspectives. Attendees to this year's Congress participated in informative lectures and workshops facilitated by credit union leaders from around the world, including WOCCU board member Sylvester Kadzola; WOCCU president and CEO Arthur Arnold; Louisiana Credit Union League CEO Anne Cochran; Canadian Cooperative Association's senior director of international development Jo- Anne Ferguson; WOCCU delegate and representative of the Irish League of Credit Unions, Kay Geoghegan; and Swaziland Credit Union League CEO Bongani Masuku among others.
Topics at this year's Congress focused on the importance of strategic planning, managers' responsibilities, financial disciplines, approaches to lending, business planning, asset liability management, savings mobilization, and marketing and the importance of technology. In addition, there were case studies on Rwanda, Kenya, Malawi, Ghana, Canada and Ireland.
Good governance was also a focal point throughout the conference. Recently named WOCCU's fourth mission (in addition to being an advocate for credit unions, providing a platform for knowledge exchange and being the leading development group), governance is a critical issue for credit unions everywhere, particularly in Africa.
Good governance in all areas of the world is essential to fighting corruption in the credit union system, and a clear definition of roles within the system is essential to ensuring good governance. Sile explained, "We hope that the role of management and the board of directors will become clear at this conference, since both groups will be present."
Plans for the 2005 SACCA Congress, hosted in Cote d' Ivoire (the Ivory Coast), will begin early next year.
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, 51,000 cooperativas de ahorro y crédito en 100 países atienden a 196 millones de personas. Obtenga más información sobre el impacto global del Consejo Mundial en www.woccu.org.