PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas–More than 2,000 people representing credit unions from more than 60 countries around the world helped the World Council of Credit Unions kick off its World Credit Union Conference here.
Among those on hand was the Prime Minister of the Bahamas.
In opening remarks, WOCCU Chairman Steve Stapp, CEO of Unitus Community Credit Union in Portland, Ore., spoke of credit unions—or saccos, mutual savings banks, building societies, cooperativeas or whatever they may be called–said, “We are here to stay and we are creating an impact, and yet we have so much work to do.”
Noting the 61 counties in attendance all hail from different parts of the world and political systems, Stapp said, “Nowhere in the world right now is there such a diverse group of individuals gathered with the same purpose: people helping right now.”
Distinguished Service Awards
The World Council presented its Distinguished Service Award, its highest honor, to one individual and one organization.
Winning the individual award was Sylvester Kadzola of Malawi, who served on the WOCCU board from 2001-2016 and who has been an influential leader in his country and Africa. Kadzola was injured in a terrible car accident in 2018 and was unable to attend and the award was accepted on his behalf.
Winning the organizational award was the Brazilian Organization of Cooperatives, which was nominated by Sicredi. The organization has helped Brazil’s credit unions grow marketshare from less than 1% in 2005 to more than 8% in 2017.
The Prime Minister’s Address
The prime minister of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, Dr. Hubert A. Minnis, in welcoming credit unions to his country, cited the mission of the regional host of the meeting: the Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions.
“The Confederation seeks to strengthen, unite and promote sustainable growth and development for cooperatives in the Caribbean for socio-economic development,” said Minnis.
The prime minister noted that as of December 2018, there were 289 CUs in the Caribbean serving 2.6 million members.
“Given this potential, especially among smaller countries, credit unions can play an outsize role in economic development, especially in less developed areas,” Minnis said. “Many areas are underbanked. We encourage this sector to expand their services, especially in those islands where the commercial banks have exited the markets.”