Posted on Leave a comment

Oceans apart, our mission is the same

Supporting the Credit Union Movement in Africa

By: Molly Walker, VP, Employee Learning, PSCU

The credit union movement began with a simple idea — that by pooling savings and making loans to neighbors and co-workers, people could achieve a better standard of living. This movement has existed for over a hundred years and spans continents across the globe.

In October, I was fortunate enough to witness firsthand the power of the credit union movement in Africa. I was invited to represent PSCU for ClimbAfrica, a fundraising campaign supporting the new African Confederation of Cooperative Associations (ACCOSCA) Academy in Nairobi, Kenya. The ClimbAfrica event included a climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro, a community outreach project in Salima, Malawi, industry workshops and a ribbon-cutting ceremony. In addition to my participation, PSCU made a corporate donation toward the initiative.

The creation of the ACCOSCA Academy will enable employees, board members, regulators and community members of Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs, which are African credit unions) to participate in a wide variety of financial education and training. The Academy will increase financial service competencies at all levels, prepare leaders and introduce new ideas and effective problem-solving strategies — all to benefit members.

The workshops focused on the state of the financial industry in the U.S., Africa and beyond. George Ombado, Executive Director of ACCOSCA, shared some of the difficulties SACCOs are facing — with a key concern being the ability to compete with larger financial institutions. Unlike in the U.S., there are few fintech credit union service organizations (CUSOs) in Africa for SAACOs to partner with for scalability. Some of my African counterparts would share,”Why don’t we have an organization like PSCU here? We could offer online banking and other digital services if we had an organization like that to partner with.” As a PSCU employee, I was proud to see and hear firsthand what our organization provides to credit unions. It was also fascinating to discover similar challenges that financial insitutions face across the globe, such as access to digital banking and succession planning.

Just as credit unions in the U.S. form longstanding relationships with their local communities, SACCOs do the same. As part of the trip, we joined United Civil Servants SACCO for a community project in Salima, Malawi. The SACCO has a longstanding commitment and partnership with the Salima School for the Blind, and ClimbAfrica participants supported their efforts by helping with building repair work, painting murals and planting trees on campus. The murals included the children’s handprints, using textured paint so they could feel the completed print on the wall. It was inspiring to work alongside passionate and dedicated credit union individuals and hear the dreams and ambitions of the students at the school. One young man I met aspires to be a journalist and to see more individuals like him in public roles. It was a wonderful chance to give back while experiencing the African community and culture from a different perspective.

My time in Africa was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was an eye-opening reminder that despite being an ocean apart, our mission is ultimately the same — people helping people. I encourage everyone to find out about the community service opportunities that exist with your local credit union and to get involved, especially as we move through this holiday season.

Molly Walker is a Vice President in the Learning & Organizational Development organization. She has been with PSCU since 2018, most recently leading the employee training team, focusing on the importance of learning within our company. She also is a lead and founder of PSCU’s emerging leader BRG, Voice of Tomorrow.

Original Post