The World Council of Credit Unions can no longer wait to resume its operations in the country, but said it is awaiting approval from the Liberian Government, an indication that the country is now safe for business.
WOCCU, which has been in the country since 2013, is involved in the construction of credit union centers throughout the country in an effort to empower local financial savings institutions helping members to expand their businesses.
The initiative is meant to rapidly expand savings and improve the livelihoods of poor and low-income households throughout the country by developing four regional model credit unions and strengthening the national association.
But during the heat of the Ebola outbreak, WOCCU had to go slow on its operations when some of its staff had to leave the country.
Last July, the World Council scaled back its model credit union building project by restricting project staff activities and movement within Liberia.
The financial institution’s chief executive officer, Mr. Brian Branch, recently said that the organization remains committed to long-term credit union development in Liberia and the entire sub-region.
The organization recently made a contribution to UNICEF-Liberia, who is working along with the government and other international partners to prevent the Ebola epidemic which has claimed several thousand lives since the outbreak.
"Recent reports show a reduction in the number of people infected with Ebola," said Peter Graves, World Council senior vice president for technical services. "Our expectation is to ramp up the project as soon as we receive the go-ahead from health officials. Although the projects have been hampered, Liberian credit unions have remained open and World Council staff members continue to remain actively involved in helping credit union members."
According to Mr. Graves, credit unions in Liberia were destroyed by the nation's civil wars over the last 20 years.
The UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) project, funded by the MasterCard Foundation through its MicroLead Program, has helped build regional credit unions to serve as models for other savings groups that desire to become formalized, regulated credit unions.
It reported that with outside project oversight, World Council's deputy team leader has continued to administer daily operations of the organization.
With funding from the United Nations Capital Development Fund, the World Council entered Liberia in 2013 as part of a project “rapidly to expand savings and improve the livelihoods of poor and low-income households throughout the country by developing four regional model credit unions and strengthening the national association.”
WOCCU partnered with the Liberian Credit Union National Association (LCUNA), and has sponsored Ebola prevention training for staff and credit union members.
“Members have continually received educational materials and information about the virus through dialogue, flyers, radio campaigns and community engagement activities,” WOCCU reported.
“However, fear has caused many members to restrict their movements. Consequently, project activities have been postponed, including nationwide savings and member education campaigns, as well as credit union governance trainings.”