Local communities across Kenya are gaining greater access to financial services and local democracy thanks to World Council of Credit Unions’ multifaceted efforts to strengthen the country’s credit unions, known as savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs).
Since 1997, World Council has implemented various technical assistance programs that offer Kenyan SACCOs management and technology solutions to improve their business operations and reach underserved populations.
IRnet® Coop Kenya Ltd. (ICK)—a joint venture between SACCOs, the Kenyan Association of SACCOs, and the World Council—is based in Nairobi and provides SACCOs throughout the country with back-office data processing, remittance delivery, and mobile solutions.
ICK provides the core banking software and technical support to World Council’s most recent initiative: the digital credit union, E-Kenya SACCO.
This digital SACCO allows for rapid expansion into rural areas without the constraints of a brick and mortar office, back-office information technology equipment, and limited operational hours. Members have 24/7 access to their finances by using M-Pesa, Kenya’s largest cell phone-based transaction company, and World Council cell phone technology. They also can make deposits and withdrawals via mobile SACCO field agents with smartphones and portable printers.
In 2010, Kenya’s new constitution decentralized government powers to the local county level. Several county governors approached World Council to establish county SACCOs in their communities to provide the financial vehicle to respond to citizens’ demands for production, growth, and economic strength.
SACCOs provide many citizens with a first experience in community grassroots democratic decision making. SACCOs provide practice in electing representatives, holding those representatives accountable, and learning good governance principles.
Former Kenyan ambassador to the U.S., Elkanah Odembo, was recently named World Council’s vice president of the African region to lead these strategic initiatives in Kenya and across Africa.
Ambassador Odembo’s efforts build an integrated effort to ensure SACCOs are part of local, national, regional, and continental strategies for economic and social development and growth.