Bank of Sierra Leone Deputy Director Esther Johnson states
Deputy Director of Other Financial Services at the Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL), Esther Johnson has said Credit Unions (CUs) are key players in the financial sector.
She was speaking at the National Cooperative Credit Union Association – Sierra Leone’s 9th Annual General Meeting in Freetown, where she revealed that the BSL cannot do anything without mentioning CUs.
She said the total asset of CUs has increased from Le15 to Le24 million, adding that the BSL is interested in the ongoing review of the Cooperative Act to provide credibility and would continue to dialogue with key stakeholders in the process.
She said the BSL recognises the critical role of the CUs in the financial sector but highlighted some of their challenges as the outdated laws, lack of modern technology and visibility reiterating, whiles assuring that the BSL would work closely with all stakeholders to address some of these challenges.
“The BSL has rolled out the Collateral Register for institutions to gain access to credit using movable collateral security, the Consumer Protection Guidelines, the National Payment Switch (Phase I). We are on a sensitisation campaign for financial inclusion to build a better Sierra Leone.” Esther Johnson said.
General Manager of the Irish League of Credit Union Foundation (ILCUF) Limited, Solomon Mwongyere assured CUs of his organisation’s continued support to promote the credit union movement in Sierra Leone.
He said ILCUF has changed its strategy and now focusing on three projects plus Business as usual.
“Project 1 will focus on good governance and operational efficiency which is being piloted with Baycons field CU to capacitate its Board, Committees and staff after which they would continue with other CUs.
“Project 2 is focusing on NaCCUA sustainability where he revealed that they will support NaCCUA plans of recruiting General manager, Finance Officer and Compliance Officer for NaCCUA-SL to make it more visible.
“Project 3 will focus on Standard RuleBook and Supervisory Framework. The project would establish a Supervisory Framework and Supervisory Board to ensure that there is compliance of laws and regulations by CUs” Solomon explained.
This plan he said is to bring together the two statutory bodies BSL and DoC and NaCCUA to supervise and regulate the credit unions in the country, adding that business as usual will continue with regular credit union monitoring, training, auditing, policy and procedure formulation and review, Graduation Microfinance and social performance management.
He also stated that ILCUF would continue working with other government institutions such as Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Planning and economic development, Ministry of Gender and Child Affairs and Department of Cooperatives to add value to CUs, that they want all stakeholders onboard.
He advised credit unions that byelaws must be strictly adhered to, that CUs must be audited and their AGMs organized within first four months of each year lamenting that most CUs have not complied with this and that they cannot continue with business as usual.
Deputy Registrar of Cooperatives under the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Suliaman Bangura said the Department recently launched the Cooperative Policy and other documents and that plans are underway to reopen the National Cooperative Bank and that CU shares increased by 41%, savings by 62%, loans by 76% and membership by 29%.
Chairman of the Board of NaCCUA-SL, Ibrahim Sorie Bangura enlightened that NaCCUA’s financial results reflect growth and responsible fiscal management, that they had a successful year but noted that like many other organisations, the continued instability caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war has required NaCCUA-SL to strategically and proactively respond to its changing environment.
He said the financial services sector has seen many ramifications of the pandemic on its business model including changes in financial behavior of businesses and their clients as well as delinquency issues facing the CUs nationwide.
He concluded that when these elements are considered within the context of the low interest rate and the highly competitive environment, NaCCUA-SL worked very hard to ensure that CUs remained strong, progressive and most importantly focused on supporting its members in their financial journey.