WOCCU Team Finds Great Opportunities for Credit Unions in Liberia
Washington, DC—World Council of Credit
Unions, Inc. (WOCCU) assessment team of Brian
Branch, chief operating officer, and Jamie
business development manager, traveled to
in late May to evaluate the current state of
credit unions and potential reestablishment and
expansion of the Liberian credit union
With peace now restored to the West African
country suffering from 14 years of civil war and
government oppression, the assessment team found
credit unions poised to play a vital role in
were organized in Liberia in the late 1970s and
1980s around companies with payroll deduction
systems and closed bonds of memberships,"
Raile. "They lost their deposits which were
in private banks that failed during the war.
Many credit union records, equipment and
buildings were destroyed or damaged, as well.
But a dozen credit unions have now reactivated,
and other employer-based credit unions are
starting up again as companies are being
"Credit unions in Liberia
have not had access to the best practices and
more progressive credit union model established
in the 1990s that allows for increased
sustainability and outreach. Liberian credit
unions are now recognizing the need to increase
outreach by reorganizing on a community bond
"The national association and
credit unions have expressed the need for
training, technical assistance, capacity
and a central finance facility. The time for
credit unions to grow to help the citizens of
Liberia is now."
Henry's internet café business on Bushrod Island.
As part of the
the WOCCU team interviewed a number of Liberian
citizens to determine the need for credit union
services. Raile recounts the stories of two of
"Henry is a 28-year-old
entrepreneur with an internet café
business on Bushrod Island, a suburb outside
Monrovia. He grew up learning about credit
unions through his father who has been active in
the credit union system since the 1980s. Like
other Liberians, Henry's story has had many
twists and turns. For ten months in 2003, he
a refugee in Guinea. When he returned to
Liberia, he purchased his first two (used)
computers with a $700 loan from his father, and
gradually started his business. By reinvesting
his profits, Henry was able to expand his
business and now has 20 computers in three
"As with other Liberians, Henry
lost his personal savings in one of the many
failed private banks. While he has known about
credit unions all his life, he has never been
able to be a member. Closed-bond credit unions
limited to employees of large companies cannot
serve entrepreneurs like
Jacquelene's airport café in Monrovia.
is a single mother with two children to
She works at the domestic airport in Monrovia.
is common in Liberia to have several income-
generating activities to support a family. Last
year, Jacquelene went to a local money lender
borrowed $200 to start a restaurant/café
at the airport. The café is managed by
her mother and employs several workers.
Jacquelene is well on her way to paying off her
loan, in spite of the fact that the airport was
destroyed during the war and now is only being
used by UN helicopters. The café is also
serving the community.
"When a new manager
was assigned to the airport this year, he taught
Jacquelene about credit unions and the
they have over predatory money lenders.
Jacquelene became convinced and decided to
organize a community credit union around the
airport. A study group was organized with 50
members in March 2006. The members have started
paying for shares and begun saving. They
many community members will want to join because
of the advantages the credit union has over the
local credit clubs and money lenders in the
area. The group, however, is in need of
in order to move forward with its
For more information about the
recent assessment of Liberian credit unions,
please contact Jamie Raile at 202-508-6755 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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.