Affordable financial services for the disadvantaged

Credit unions are an important part of a global trade association, the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). This international network operates under the vision: “Improving people’s lives through credit unions” and promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world.

The association has a strong history of assisting disadvantaged and impoverished individuals and communities access high quality, affordable financial services.

Being mutual organizations, credit unions worldwide are founded on the principles of cooperation, moral integrity, trust, financial prudence, member-care and social responsibility.

Making a world of difference

WOCCU and its members are making a world of difference to millions of people across the globe. It has 3 main objectives:

  • To raise awareness of credit unions and financial cooperatives.
  • To facilitate the global exchange of information and ideas.
  • To improve legislation and regulation through international lobbying.

The well-known saying: “Feed a man fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime” encapsulates the essential work WOCCU does.

It empowers people to have access to affordable financial services, which in turn helps them gain control of their financial future through WOCCU international development programs.

These programs assist credit unions and national/regional associations with:

  • rebuilding during and after conflict;
  • provision of access to the under-served;
  • development of integrated business networks;
  • support for communities at risk;
  • reconstruction after disaster; and
  • encouragement of legislative reform and regulatory system development.

Here are a few examples of WOCCU’s ongoing work

In Afghanistan, WOCCU is currently implementing two programs to develop the country’s first credit union system.

In a country where the vast majority of people are ‘unbanked’ and have been denied civic participation for many years, credit unions provide Afghan men and women the opportunity to join a financial institution that is owned, controlled and operated by the members.

In Bolivia, WOCCU helped credit unions establish profitable new branches in remote areas and is now working at the sector level to bring ATM access to rural areas and advocate for a sound regulatory framework for micro-finance.

In Mexico, WOCCU developed a successful methodology to take both group-based and individual savings and loan products to poor members in some of the most marginalised areas of the country, so that members no longer have to travel long distances to access savings and loans.

Since 2008, WOCCU’s rural credit union outreach program has helped reach 240,000 new members from these unbanked maginalised zones.

In Uzbekistan, where WOCCU built a credit union system from the ground up, credit unions provide agricultural leasing products to small farmers so they can expand their production serve new markets.

 A strong global financial support network

WOCCU is governed by a board of directors that represents its member organizations. WOCCU’s membership grew to 43 organizations representing 54 countries across the globe, with the addition of credit union associations from Belarus, Papua New Guinea and Singapore.

WOCCU is engaged in technical assistance programs to introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions’ financial performance and increase their rural outreach capacity.

The World Council’s technical assistance programs reached more than 3.8 million people in 11 countries.

Worldwide, in research indicates that there are 57,000 credit unions operating in 105 countries that serve 217 million members.