Gates Foundation Awards Microfinance Grant to World Council of Credit Unions
Working the fields at a tea plantation in Kenya.
Madison, WI—The Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation has granted $6.7 million to World
Council of Credit Unions and $2 million to World
Council's Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions
to implement a Credit Union Growth Program in
Africa and Latin America. The new microfinance
program will test product development tools for
rapid credit union growth and provide outreach
to the poor.
This is the first venture for the Bill &
Gates Foundation in exploring the growth
potential of existing credit unions and what it
takes for them to serve those living under $2 a
day. Credit unions are among the largest
providers of microfinance, which caters to those
excluded from the traditional financial system
due to their economic status.
"We are pleased to work with World Council of
Credit Unions and the Worldwide Foundation of
Credit Unions," said Sylvia Mathews, president
of the Global Development Program of the Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation. "This project
represents an exciting opportunity to understand
the potential of credit unions to serve new
members that have been previously excluded from
the financial system, and to significantly
increase credit union membership of those living
under $2 a day in Kenya, Rwanda and
A shopkeeper in Colombia.
The Credit Union Growth program goes beyond
World Council's traditional credit union
projects focused on institutional strengthening
and savings mobilization. Program staff will
work with financially sound credit unions in
developing countries to actively extend outreach
to the poor and dramatically increase credit
World Council will help participating credit
unions create specific financial products and
meet outreach targets. Credit unions will learn
to employ new marketing strategies and
technology to meet the program's objectives.
"Credit unions serve more than 157 million
people in 92 countries, but our penetration is
at just about seven percent. There are still
many poor people out there who fall prey to
predatory money lenders and lack access to
financial education and services," World Council
CEO Pete Crear said. "Through the Credit Union
Growth Program, we commit to deepening credit
union outreach and dramatically increasing
membership to reach those in need."
Ten credit unions in Rwanda will be pilots
French-speaking African credit unions; ten
Colombian credit unions will serve as test cases
for Latin America; and up to seven credit unions
in Kenya will pilot the English-speaking African
program. World Council selected credit unions to
participate in the program based on their
commitment to expand services to the poor,
solvency, asset quality, membership bond,
openness to change, commitment to growth and
willingness to develop new products aimed at
member service and growth.
World Council has a long history working with
credit unions in Colombia, Kenya and Rwanda.
After the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s, it
provided technical assistance and training to
revive and restart the credit union movement.
World Council recently completed a Model Credit
Union Building program in Colombia designed to
ensure fiscal strength and expand access to
microfinance, and has assisted Kenyan credit
unions, which form the largest credit union
sector in Africa, for over 20 years.
The Credit Union Growth Program will create
a "Credit Union Growth Tool Kit" to help credit
unions expand outreach to low-income households
through innovative marketing plans, product
designs and branding procedures.
By the year 2020, World Council expects to
provide 46 million low income individuals in
developing countries with sustainable financial
About the Bill & Melinda Gates
Guided by the belief that every life has
value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works
to reduce inequities and improve lives around
the world. In developing countries, it focuses
on improving health, reducing extreme poverty,
and increasing access to technology in public
libraries. In the United States, the foundation
seeks to ensure that all people have access to a
great education and to technology in public
libraries. In its local region, it focuses on
improving the lives of low-income families.
Based in Seattle, Wash., the foundation is led
by CEO Patty Stonesifer and co-chairs William H.
Gates, Sr., Bill Gates, and Melinda French
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, 56,000 credit unions in 101 countries serve 200 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.