The Irish League of Credit Unions’ International Development Foundation (ILCU Foundation), the charitable arm of the Irish credit union movement, has been selected to receive €750,000 in funding from Irish Aid. The money will be used to deliver a three-year project to support the development of strong, sustainable credit unions in the West African country of Sierra Leone.
The funding will be used to achieve poverty reduction in Sierra Leone, one of the poorest countries in the world, specifically by expanding financial services in rural communities. Speaking from Galway where he met a number of credit unions who donate to the ILCU Foundation, Ciarán Cannon, T.D., Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development, added: “I am delighted today to announce Irish Aid funding for the Irish League of Credit Unions’ International Development Foundation (ILCU Foundation). The grant of €750,000 over three years will support the expansion of the credit union programme across Sierra Leone and will ensure access to affordable financial support, for some of the most vulnerable people in the country. Our support now is more important than ever, as people in Sierra Leone continue to recover from last year’s devastating mudslides. Ireland has a proud record of working to eradicate poverty around the world and by ensuring that people in Sierra Leone have access to credit unions and to reliable financial services, Irish Aid and ILCUF are making sure that this important work continues into the future.”
The ILCU Foundation, which is funded through credit unions in Ireland, has been working with the fledgling credit union movement in Sierra Leone since 2012. This new funding from Irish Aid will be used in conjunction with €250,000 already raised by Irish credit unions, to increase access to affordable and flexible financial services for women and rural households in Sierra Leone.
Responding to the Irish Aid funding, Alan Moore, ILCU Foundation General Manager, said; “We are delighted and grateful to be granted this funding from Irish Aid to continue our work to develop a strong credit union movement in Sierra Leone. Ireland has had a proud tradition of development work in Africa. The ILCU Foundation was set up to share the success of the Irish credit union movement with similar movements in the developing world. Obtaining this funding is a huge endorsement of the Irish credit union model and a great boost to the credit union movement in Sierra Leone to help with addressing poverty in their country. This would not have been achievable without the financial support of Irish credit unions across the island of Ireland and we wholeheartedly thank them for their continued and generous donations.”
The credit union movement in Sierra Leone was devastated by the civil war in the 1990s, with only six credit unions surviving. It is one of the poorest countries in the world with a population of 6.3 million and a life expectancy of 51 years. Since its work began in 2012, the ILCU Foundation had been making progress on revitalising the movement through financial and technical support and assistance. This work was then hampered by the Ebola outbreak in 2014. Speaking about the new three year project, Soloman Mwongyere, General Manager of ILCU Foundation, Sierra Leone said; “This support will allow us to further expand credit union services to the poor in rural areas, in particular women who are often excluded from formal financial services. It’s about empowerment and giving everyone real opportunities to build a better future. It will also allow us to develop the capacity of credit union personnel and volunteers to ensure a secure movement.”
The ILCU Foundation has a proven track record developing emerging credit union movements, mostly in West Africa and Eastern Europe. Irish Aid has backed this model of socio-economic change in recent years and many credit unions and their members in Galway and across the island of Ireland support the Foundation’s efforts on a yearly basis. This support offered by the ILCU Foundation allows individuals, their families and entire communities in the developing world to escape poverty and prosper, much in the same way the credit union movement brought financial services to rural communities across Ireland when it was established. Credit unions play an important role within their communities to provide savings and loans facilities for people who need financial services.