Sector News

On International Credit Union Day, we celebrate an industry empowering the vulnerable


Credit Union and mutual customers usually know their financial institution of choice operates to help others. Unlike regular banks, whose profits are redirected to shareholders, customer-owned banks were established to give back to their members and the community in a multitude of ways.

Globally, the trend is no different. For the past three-quarters of a century, international credit unions and mutuals have been finding ways to support both their member bases and important causes.

As we celebrate the 75th-annual International Credit Union Day, we decided to look at some of the current work the World Council of Credit Unions is doing to empower people around the globe.

Giving entrepreneurs better opportunities

In developing countries, it has traditionally been especially difficult for many small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to get the funding they need to advance their businesses. In some developing nations, fewer than one-in-10 adults have access to credit, compared with more than a third of adults in the United States.

To help correct this imbalance, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has funded what’s called the Cooperative Development Program: Technology and Innovation for Financial Inclusion. It began by sending out World Council SME Finance Toolkits to three countries where there was an identified need – Burkina Faso, Kenya and Guatemala – then later expanded to Senegal.

The toolkits are designed to improve credit access for SMEs and streamline the lending process. They also help credit unions reduce their risk when lending to SMEs, which may not have the types of documentation usually required for business loans.

Improving economic inclusion for vulnerable groups

Corruption and oppression in Venezuela have caused hundreds of thousands of refugees to migrate to Peru and Ecuador in recent years. When they arrive, they have complex financial challenges and often struggle to access opportunities many of us take for granted.

The World Council of Credit Unions and USAID have seen the need for urgent assistance and have helped tens of thousands of refugees access financial services, improve their financial literacy and find employment or education opportunities.

Attention has now turned to addressing gender-based violence and supporting credit unions to build or extend their presence.

Helping Ukrainian farmers

In war-torn Ukraine, small-scale farmers and agricultural producers are largely excluded from the credit system. It means credit unions are often their only source of funding.

In 2016, the four-year Credit for Agriculture Producers (CAP) Project in Ukraine was created to help small farmers and producers access credit. It has now been extended through September 2024.

The next focus is to improve the legal and regulatory framework to help bolster the credit union market in Ukraine and supply credit to those who desperately need it.

To find out more about International Credit Union Day and the great work of credit unions around the world, visit the World Council website.

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