According to the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), a credit union is “a customer/member-owned financial cooperative. It is democratically controlled by its members, and operated to maximize the economic benefit of its members by providing financial services at competitive and fair rates.” In summary, savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs) are member-based institutions that intermediate savings into loans. This is enabling low-income populations to accumulate savings and create a source of credit at reasonable rates.
Cooperatives represent an economically viable avenue for changing people’s lives. This is based on the powerful idea that cooperation allows goals to be achieved and the lives of communities to be transformed. Nowadays, credit unions are operating in most countries around the world, with their number continuously increasing. The latest Statistical Report from WOCCU states that in 2021 there were over 87,000 credit unions in 118 countries improving the lives and communities of 393 million members. The infographic below shows the number of SACCOs in seven regions of the world.
SACCOs address the needs of poor populations
SACCOs play an active role in both rural and urban areas. The growth over the last ten years, both in the number of cooperatives and the number of their members, indicates that financial cooperatives are successfully supporting people. Allowing them to undertake activities that contribute to their economic development. The services cooperatives provide to their members help them start new businesses or expand existing ones. This improves the productivity of farms and microenterprises and boosts human and social capital. For example, cooperatives foster resource mobilization, processing, and marketing in support of agricultural production. The cooperative movement also plays an important role in wealth creation. Along with food security, and the generation of employment to offset vulnerabilities and reduce poverty.
An opportunity to overcome SACCOs’ challenges
Despite these successes, SACCOs must address a diversity of challenges to keep generating impact on the populations they serve. One of which is the weak institutional capacity with which many of them struggle. This includes in terms of management capacity and governance. Another obstacle is reporting and data management which is both for internal operations and for keeping stakeholders informed. SACCO managers and leaders need access to reports that are tailored to their needs. This would include high-level, well-summarized, and universal reports that make it easy to understand a cooperative’s financial situation.
Credit Union U-IMCEC, a partner of BRS, provides financial services in rural and suburban Senegal.
Strengthening SACCOS through high-quality training and free tools
Microfact, a flagship project of BRS, is designed to serve SACCOs. They do this by providing tools, training, technical assistance, and other resources for strengthening their performance. Therefore allowing Microfact to expand financial inclusion. They do this by offering credit unions and all other types of financial service providers (FSPs). Furthermore, they provide their stakeholders with the best e‐learning courses, technical assistance, and reporting and management tools. This would allow them to build business plans and create financial projections. By engaging in high-quality, training through Microfact, SACCOs can easily upgrade the capacities of their personnel. Microfact’s free tools enable SACCOs to use data to their advantage with automated reporting that eases compliance with international standards. Being able to prepare financial and social projections – and quickly update them to anticipate the impact of various events and adjust strategy accordingly – makes SACCOs far more resilient.
Microfact – Let your figures talk!
Comprehensive and universal reporting dashboards available within Microfact’s MFI Factsheet and Microvision tools offer a common language for all types of stakeholders. This may include those who want to have better insight into the financial and social performance of FSPs. Furthermore, contact the Microfact team for more guidance and details on building the capacity of SACCOs with a specially designed programme: Microfact Alliance for Impact.
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