Our work in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is situated in the north eastern part of the African continent commonly called the ‘Horn of Africa’. With a land area of some 432 thousand square miles it is almost fourteen times the size of the island of Ireland. Despite having a growth rate of about 10% per annum, one of the highest in Africa, it remains one of the continent’s poorest countries.

The ILCU Foundation’s work in Ethiopia is two-fold. Our focus is on supporting rural credit unions to develop their capacity in different regions around the country. We are also working to help establish regional and national apex bodies under an International Fund for Agricultural Development project (IFAD).

Workshop to develop Regional Federation for SACCOs in Addis, 2018

Working with grassroot credit unions:

In 2007, the ILCU Foundation partnered with Gorta Self Help Africa to improve the Savings and Credit Co-operative Organisations in three regions in rural Ethiopia. The funding provided from the ILCU Foundation aims to increase access to suitable financial services to people living in rural communities. This is being delivered by improving the governance and operational capacity of rural savings and credit co-operatives (RuSACCOs) and their representative unions; and increasing the outreach of financial services into rural and marginalised areas. Improving access to financial services is a means of assisting smallholder households to diversify their income generation activities. RuSACCOs are owned, operated and governed on a democratic basis by its members – similar to the Irish credit union model. Altogether the ILCU Foundation's partnership with G-SHA has helped more that 150,000 people in rural areas to create and access financial services.

Supporters of the ILCU Foundation pictured with the chairman of Meki Batu RuSACCO credit union

Helping to build regional apex bodies:

Currently, there is no central apex body in which the ILCU Foundation can channel support. The Ethiopian Government’s Federal Cooperative Agency (FCA) have identified cooperative forms of business as an important instrument of socio-economic change and in the last ten years cooperatives have become a significant part of the economy. In this context the ILCU Foundation has helped in the development of a roadmap for the future of the movement there.

In 2017, the UN Agency, International Fund for Agricultural Development awarded funding to the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA), in partnership with the ILCU Foundation and the African Confederation of Co-operative Savings and Credit Association (ACCOSCA) in respect of the 'Improving Rural Financial Inclusion Through Co-operatives’ project (IRFITCO). The goal of the four year project is to improve rural financial inclusion for the rural poor in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Malawi through strengthened financial co-operative networks.

Key Activities and Progress in 2017:


  • 370 RuSACCOs supported
  • > 59,000 members
  • 57% of members are female
  • Savings grew by 36%
  • Internal Auditing and the Control Committee Function Manual

Meet the members:

  • Bezina
  • Sifene

At a glance

Population: 105 million

GNI per capita: $1,719

Expected yrs of schooling: 8.5

% living on < €1 a day: 39%

Life expectancy: 65.9 yrs.

Type of loan issued: Animal fattening, animal rearing, petty trading, medical, educational.