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WOCCUs 2.1M project expands technology in Kenya
MADISON, Wis. (1/7/10)--The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has provided $2.1 million to the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) to help establish and test new financial data processing and product development capabilities for savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs)--or credit unions--in Kenya.
Click to view larger image Brian Branch, World Council of Credit Union (WOCCU) executive vice president and chief operating officer, greets a group of Kenyan children. WOCCU is helping establish and test new financial data processing and product development capabilities for savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs)--or credit unions--in Kenya.
Click to view larger image Many merchants in Tala, Kenya’s open-air marketplace, are now members of their local credit union. (Photos provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
The new two-year grant for the Kenya Data Services Bureau Project follows a November 2006 foundation grant of $6.6 million awarded to WOCCU to implement a three-year credit union growth program designed to reach the unbanked and rural poor in Kenya, Rwanda and Colombia. Technology development supported by the new funding will help WOCCU expand its reach to credit unions and communities in rural areas, to serve an increasing number of poor Kenyans with financial services to help support their economic growth and survival. “This funding from the Gates Foundation reflects favorably on the technological innovations we believe will be effective in Kenya,” said Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer. “Increased technical capabilities enable us to reach the rural poor in areas where no credit union branches exist. Technology enables us to increase credit union membership and provide more services to those members.” The new program focuses on technology development and deployment only in Kenya, where more than 59% of credit union members live on less than $1 per day. Grant dollars will support the development of a central data processing service bureau in WOCCU's Nairobi office so small and medium-sized rural SACCOs can reach beyond their normal service areas and meet the needs of more people. The back-office program was designed with the help of Synergent, a subsidiary of the Maine Credit Union League. Participating SACCOs will have access to back-office accounting and operations, credit and savings administration, and management information system services. Access to those services will require participating SACCOs to adopt more stringent accounting disciplines, internal controls and risk management methods to improve the transparency and overall safety and soundness of SACCO operations. The new program differs from the previous Gates foundation-funded program, which ended in October, in its primary emphasis on technology and its single-country focus. The initial program, known as the Credit Union Growth Program, was designed to grow membership and more effectively serve the poor in Rwanda, Colombia and Kenya. The program reached nearly one million new credit union members across the three countries. “The goal of our original program was to create a credit union growth toolkit to help participating institutions expand their outreach through innovative marketing plans, product designs and branding procedures,” Branch said. “Thanks to this second round of Gates Foundation funding, we are able to further explore portable technology options in Kenya that have proven so effective in reaching the rural poor elsewhere in the world.” The grant to WOCCU is part of the Gates Foundation's Financial Services for the Poor initiative. It works with public and private partners to harness technology and innovation to bring quality, affordable savings accounts and other financial services to the poor. The foundation believes that setting aside small sums in a safe place allows people to guard against risks, build assets and provide opportunities for the next generation.
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