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Call for Government Officials to Join Credit Unions

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Call for Government Officials to Join Credit Unions

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Lilian Songo, Chairperson of the National Cooperative Credit Union Association–Sierra Leone (NaCCUA-SL) has called on all government officials to join Credit Unions (CU), underscored that CUs can create impact in the economic development of Sierra Leone, that all sectors in Kenya like the police, teachers, army, doctors, nurses and the judiciary are members of CUs, intimated that 50% of Members of Parliament in Kenya are connected to CUs and as such providing solutions to their communities, revealed that the Cooperative Bank is the third largest in Kenya and appealed to all to use their time to diligently serve the people of Sierra Leone.

She disclosed to this medium in an exclusive interview that Credit Unions (CUs) in Sierra Leone have continued to improve with over 10,000 members, more than Le1.7 billion in share capital, over Le8.5 billion in savings and outstanding loans of over Le8.6 billion with she attributed to the invaluable support of the Irish League of Credit Union Foundation (ILCUF) highlighting the first Credit Union Stakeholders’ Workshop in Sierra Leone recently held at the Sierra Palms Hotel in Freetown.

She recalled that participants at the workshop were drawn from the Ministries of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Trade and Industry, Social Welfare, Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the Sierra Leone Teachers Union and other stakeholders to enhance their capacity on their roles to ensure that CUs have timely regulations that would guide their leaders and members to abide by the Act, rules and policies governing their operations.

According to Mrs. Songo, CUs are akin to Sierra Leone, that they have immense benefits and that she herself has benefitted a lot from them and assured that government is dedicated to see the growth of CUs as well as provide access to other financial institutions but observed that Sierra Leone lacks the savings culture.

She continued that government recently approved the National Cooperative Policy to ensure that CUs are regulated, that the sector also now has a clear road map, that new Cooperatives are being registered while others have been audited nationwide and that CUs are doing well nationwide reiterating that the sector is lucrative.

She also expressed appreciation to ILCUF for complementing government policies, revealed that the revised National Cooperative Policy is aligned to other national documents/development plans including the Medium Term National Development Plan 2019-2023, the National Cooperative Policy 2021, the Cooperative Act 1977 and the Financial Inclusion Strategy 2017-2020 assuring that government is committed to support CUs by creating the conductive environment, that government is hopeful that Sierra Leoneans would take advantage of the opportunities offered by CUs that they would not regret but underscored that regulation is a key challenge to CUs and that she wants the Cooperative Department to be transformed into an Agency.

The Chairperson of NaCCUA-SL further enlightened about the promotion of financial inclusion in Africa, discussed the role of government towards the CU development, legislation and regulation, stressed the need for commitment from government officials for the growth of CUs in Sierra Leone citing the biggest CU in Africa as the Kenya Teachers Credit Union with $400 million asset base underscoring that the CU model is all about inclusiveness.

She also underscored the need for CUs in Sierra Leone to invest in technology, institutional collaboration, safety and soundness: quality of assets, capital requirements, liquidity levels, examination procedure, institutional strengthening: improved management and financial soundness, provision of affordable financial services to members and encouraged the election of competent leaders disclosing that the Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL) is appreciative of the fact that CUs are considered a key partner in the sector and has pledged to provide the level playing field for them to operate effectively with the right legislations and guidelines as well as ensure financial inclusion as is the case in other countries that are regulated by Central Banks.

She went on to suggest that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) be signed between the Department of Cooperatives, other key stakeholders and BSL for effective collaboration for the development of rules for effective supervision and commended ILCUF for its support to CUs revealing that the BSL has benefited from various trainings, both local and international, supported by ILCUF.

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