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WOCCU Bolivia program expands service to rural areas
LA PAZ, Bolivia (3/19/10)--World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU) development program in Bolivia--a three-year-plus financial sector support program--ends March 31 after increasing financial access for Bolivia’s rural poor.
Click to view larger image World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) Bolivia Project Director Rolando Salazar speaks at the inauguration of the Center for Economic Initiatives Promotion, a microfinance provider in Santa Cruz that received funding from WOCCU's Rural Financial Expansion Grant program.
To engage Bolivia’s entire financial sector and extend services to marginalized rural areas, the program set out in 2006 to administer grants to credit unions and microfinance institutions that piloted innovative outreach initiatives. The program was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). This and other sector-wide initiatives, which addressed the needs of credit unions and other microfinance providers, drew nearly 25,000 people into formal financial institutions, said WOCCU. Other accomplishments of the $2.4 million program included the development of microinsurance, the formation of an association of financial associations to foster the sector's development, widespread consumer information campaigns and the launch of Bolivia's first member-owned ATMs. The Ohio Credit Union League (OCUL) and Corporate One CU, Columbus, Ohio, also participated in the development of Bolivia’s credit unions through WOCCU’s International Partnerships Program. OCUL representatives taught their Bolivian counterparts about financial services delivery methods, documentation processes and advocacy techniques. Corporate One created software that allowed Bolivia’s credit unions to manage their own liquidity needs.
Click to view larger image Banco Sol used a grant from World Council of Credit Unions’ program to help fund three full-service mobile banking units with two tellers and a driver in the Bolivian cities of La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba. (Photos provided by World Council of Credit Unions) .
The program received a grant in April 2007 to fund grants for financial expansion initiatives to disadvantaged populations. Thirty proposals were submitted from a variety of institutions with 15 awarded a total of $284,000 through September 2009. Participant organizations attracted more than 15,000 new savers and nearly 10,000 new borrowers, exceeding the original aggregate goal of 10,000 new savers and 4,700 borrowers. Banco Sol, a microfinance institution awarded one of the grants, used its funds to launch three mobile banking units in La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz. Trucks converted into full-service branches now travel to populations with little or no access to financial services. Grant funds covered about 30% of the $60,000 startup cost for each unit and the rest was paid by the institution itself. Also in 2007, the program began a market analysis to determine whether microinsurance should be offered through credit unions and other participating institutions. In 2008, agreements were drafted and three policies were launched. By July 2009, five policies had been launched, including the first micro auto insurance policies to reach the Bolivian market. The micro policies are more affordable than traditional insurance policies, WOCCU said. WOCCU’s Bolivia program also helped credit unions increase the depth of their services by installing ATMs in rural and fringe urban areas.
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