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WOCCU conference highlights CU movement in Africa
HONG KONG (7/18/08)--World Credit Union Conference attendees gained insights into credit union development in Africa on the last morning of the World Council of Credit Union's (WOCCU) annual event Wednesday, both through the eyes of one of the region's most influential leaders and by “traveling” directly to Kenya.
Click to view larger imageKeynote speaker Dr. Anna Tibaijuka, United Nations under-secretary general and executive director of UN-HABITAT in Nairobi, outlined the urgent need for affordable housing worldwide and the role that credit unions and the African savings and credit cooperatives, known as SACCOs, can play to help meet this need. She spoke Wednesday at the World Council of Credit Unions conference in Hong Kong.
The World Credit Union Conference, an annual event organized by WOCCU and its host member countries, concluded Wednesday. Keynote speaker Dr. Anna Tibaijuka, United Nations under-secretary general and executive director of UN-HABITAT in Nairobi, outlined the urgent need for affordable housing worldwide and the role that credit unions and the African savings and credit cooperatives, known as SACCOs, can play to help meet this need. Tibaijuka's oversight includes housing issues, and her presentation was a plea for assistance in meeting one of the most basic and dire needs of the world's poor. “In Africa, 72% of the urban population are slum dwellers, and in Asia, 46% are slum dwellers,” Tibaijuka told the audience. “And those who benefit by exploiting the poor don't want things to change.” Poor housing means much more than a lack of shelter, Tabaijuka explained. It causes malnutrition, poor health, low self-esteem and a raft of social issues, including crime and substance abuse. Rising food prices have only exacerbated the problem, she added. The demand for affordable housing is reaching a critical level worldwide, with 5 million new units required per year, or 4,000 new housing alternatives needed every hour by a growing population of poor, Tibaijuka said. That's not counting replacing the current inventory of substandard housing. “The advantages [of supporting the development of affordable housing] are great, and each of us must play a role,” Tibaijuka added. “The knowledge and efforts on the part of credit unions can help millions.”
Click to view larger imagePete Crear, president/CEO, Work Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) (left), talked to WOCCU Program Manger Erick Sile (in yellow shirt) and African Savings and credit cooperative staff during a live video feed with Kenya at the World Council of Credit Unions conference in Hong Kong Wednesday. (Photos provided by Patrick Leung)
The keynote address was followed by a visit to Africa, courtesy of a live computer uplink directly to a SACCO in Kenya sponsored by Tandberg. WOCCU Program Manager Erick Sile anchored a brief discussion between WOCCU President/CEO Pete Crear and SACCO staff and members. Kenya currently has 4,000 SACCOs serving more than 4 million people, said Sile, manager of one of WOCCU's three development programs in Kenya. Sile described the way SACCOs were largely protected by their members from looting and burning during election riots and civil unrest earlier in the year. SACCO managers explained the service offered to microentrepreneurs, two of whom were present on the call. The conference closed with a speech by Khoa Do, a young Vietnamese expatriate, who survived personal peril and poverty to immigrate with his family to Australia. Do grew up to become a filmmaker who led a group of troubled youth to create a feature-length film that garnered critical acclaim, earning him the honor of being the 2005 Young Australian of the Year. “As you face your greatest obstacles you will also often find your greatest opportunities,” Do said. “Appreciate what you have and follow your heart. You will succeed.”
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