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Kenyans flock to rural CU branch
NZAIKONI, Kenya (10/27/09)--The Universal Traders savings and credit cooperatives (SACCO)--UTS--credit union branch in the mountaintop community of Nzaikoni, Kenya, has experienced a groundswell of interest from members in a community that never had access to financial services. However, the steady member growth over the past 90 days was nothing like the rush during the branch’s official grand opening Wednesday, when a member of Kenya’s parliament pledged her support of the branch by joining UTS and offering to sponsor the initial fees to enroll 20 new members.
Click to view larger image Wavinya Ndeti, a member of Kenya’s parliament, encourages citizens of Nzaikoni, Kenya, to join the new Universal Traders savings and credit cooperatives (SACCO) branch, which is supported by the World Council of Credit Unions.
Click to view larger image A staff member from the Nzaikoni branch of UTS lines up men interested in enrolling in the SACCO. (Photos provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
UTS opened the Nzaikoni branch after several years of support from World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU) SACCO Growth Program in Kenya, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. With WOCCU’s assistance, the small credit union was turned into a regional powerhouse that has attracted involvement from the Kenyan government to administer its agricultural lending program, and establish additional branches, WOCCU said. The rapid rise of membership in the Machakos-based UTS’s fifth branch proved to be a surprise. Residents of the poor community appeared at the small branch during the past few months with jars of money that had been buried in the ground so long that the contents smelled musty. Members hid their funds at home because they lacked the means to take public transportation down the mountain to other SACCOs. “People say it is a miracle that a financial institution has opened here,” said Isaiah Mutungi, chairman of the UTS board. During the grand opening, several officials spoke, including Jesus Chavez, who manages the Kenya SACCO Growth Program. Wavinya Ndeti, an assistant minister in Kenya’s parliament who represents the Kathiani Constituency in which Nzaikoni is located, officially opened the SACCO. She congratulated both the credit union and the community on coming together to provide affordable financial alternatives to people who need them the most. “Thank you for bringing UTS here,” Ndeti said. “These people are the lowest of the low and don't have much. We will judge you by the changes you bring to our people. If I see good results, I promise I will give you 101% support in your efforts.” As a show of faith, Ndeti became a UTS member. She also agreed to sponsor 10 female members and 10 youth members, paying the 100 Kenyan shillings (about $1.20) each to enable them to join. “You can see that the people really need this office,” said Stephen Kisili, UTS general manager. “It has come out very clearly how critical that need is.”
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