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First Credit Union Stakeholders’ Workshop Ends in Freetown

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First Credit Union Stakeholders’ Workshop Ends in Freetown

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The Irish League of Credit Union Foundation (ILCUF), in collaboration with the National Cooperative Credit Union Association–Sierra Leone (NaCCUA-SL), at the Sierra Palms  Resort on Lumley Beach in Freetown ended the first Credit Union Stakeholders’ Workshop in Sierra Leone at which event the Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Rev. Abraham Sesay-Jones quoted the Credit Union song as saying that indeed it is a small world but that other people want to make it otherwise.

Participants at the workshop were drawn from the Ministries of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Bank of Sierra Leone, Trade and Industry, Social Welfare, Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the Sierra Leone Teachers Union, UNCDF, Department of Cooperatives, NaCCUA Leadership, Sierra Leone Police, NRA and other stakeholders to enhance their capacity in their roles to ensure that CUs have timely regulations that will guide their leaders and members to abide by the Act, rules and policies governing their operations.

The Deputy Minister asserted that Credit Unions (CUs) are akin to Sierra Leone, that they have immense benefits and that he benefitted a lot from CUs while in the USA, that government is dedicated to seeing the growth of CUs by providing access to finance but observed that Sierra Leoneans lacks the savings culture.

He continued that the government recently approved the National Cooperative Policy to ensure that they 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 Credit Unions are doing well nationwide reiterating that the sector is lucrative.

The Deputy Minister also expressed appreciation to the Irish League of Credit Union Foundation (ILCUF) for complementing government policies and 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 Cooperative Act 1977 and the Financial Inclusion Strategy 2017-2020 assuring that government is committed to supporting CUs by creating the conducive environment, that government is looking forward to the expertise of Mr. George Ombado and is hopeful that Sierra Leoneans would take advantage of the opportunities offered by CUs that they would not regret.

He further affirmed that regulation is a key challenge to CUs and that he wants the Cooperative Department to be transformed into an agency

In his presentation, Mr. George Ombado, Managing Director of the African Confederation of Cooperatives Savings and Credit Association (ACCOSCA), the guest speaker, enlightened about the promotion of financial inclusion in Africa and discussed the role of government towards the Credit Union Development and Credit Union legislation and regulation.

He disclosed that ACCOSCA was established in 1968 with headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, that there is a need for a lot of commitment from government officials for the growth of CUs in Sierra Leone, that the biggest CU in Africa is the Kenya Teachers Credit Union with $400 million asset base underscoring that the CU model is all about inclusiveness.

He informed that all past and present Presidents of Kenya since independence are CU members, that a board member of a credit union/Savings and credit Cooperative Organization (SACCO) who loans from a commercial bank loses his position immediately, that there is a need for trust, that Sierra Leone government officials must be CU members underscoring 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 have CUs intimating that 50% of Members of Parliament in Kenya are members of CUs and as such providing solutions to their communities.

He went on to reveal that the Cooperative Bank of Kenya is the third-largest in Kenya, appealed to all to use their time to serve the people of Sierra Leone adding that Sierra Leone has participated in ACCOSCA programs.

Other topics discussed by the Managing Director of ACCOSCA are 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 encouraging the election of competent leaders.     

Mr. George Ombado also dilated on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to reduce poverty.

Ms. Esther Johnson from the Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL) said the bank is appreciative of the fact that it is considered a key partner in the sector, that the bank would provide the level playing field for CUs to operate effectively with the right legislation and guidelines as well as ensure financial inclusion like CUs in other countries that are regulated by Central Banks.

She suggested that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) be signed between the Department of Cooperatives as well as NaCCUA and BSL for effective collaboration for the development of rules for effective supervision and commended ILCUF for its support to Credit Unions revealing that the bank has benefited from various training, both local and international, supported by ILCUF.

Earlier in her welcome statement, Lilian Songo, Chairperson of NaCCUA-SL disclosed that CUs have continued to improve with over 10,000 members, over Le1.6 billion shares, over Le7 billion savings and outstanding loans of over Le8 billion which she attributed to the support of ILCUF. 

Highlights of the workshop were singing of the CU song and a 5 minutes’ video of ACCOSCA activities and the question and answer session while the vote of thanks was rendered by Peter Banting who expressed optimism that the partnership with stakeholders would continue.

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