Oksana Markarova, Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States, on Tuesday welcomed World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) President and CEO Elissa McCarter LaBorde and representatives from four Ukrainian American credit unions to the Embassy of Ukraine in Washington D.C. to discuss possible avenues of collaboration moving forward.
Markarova kicked off the meeting by offering her Embassy's assistance in doing whatever it can to help WOCCU continue its efforts to strengthen credit unions in Ukraine, despite Russia's ongoing war there. She told McCarter LaBorde this could be a moment of opportunity for her country's credit union sector.
"I think now, with (Administrator) Samantha Power at USAID, she really wants to do something. We have seen remarkable flexibility and change in the energy here," said Ambassador Markarova. "Everyone is trying to find out how we will sustain the small businesses, how we will sustain the farmers, how will we get people to return? Giving access to credit is a top three priority for them (Ukrainians)."
McCarter LaBorde agreed that credit unions can be the vehicle to make that happen.
"If we can look at making that argument that one way to get credit most directly into the hands of some of those small businesses is through credit unions, then that tells our story," said McCarter LaBorde.
Markarova asked WOCCU to send more information to her about what the organization could do with more assistance moving forward.
WOCCU has been implementing the USAID-funded Credit for Agriculture Producers (CAP) Project since 2016 to strengthen the credit union sector in Ukraine and boost credit union lending to rural farmers and small agricultural businesses. That has continued in robust fashion even during the war, with USAID recently extending the CAP Project through September 2024.
Representatives from Selfreliance Federal Credit Union (Chicago), Ukrainian Federal Credit Union (Rochester, NY), Ukrainian Selfreliance Michigan Federal Credit Union (Detroit) and Ukrainian Selfreliance Federal Credit Union (Philadelphia) helped to facilitate the visit and joined McCarter LaBorde at the Embassy.
The meeting came two days after Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions, in partnership with World Council of Credit Unions, featured Ambassador Markarova as the keynote speaker at its annual Cooperative Voices event in Washington, D.C.