Gateway Guide to Cooperatives and Credit Unions

Date Published: 
Jul 2016

Highlighting the potential of cooperative banking and credit unions

In response to International Day of Cooperatives that took place on July 2, we examine resources that highlight the cooperative system for financial service providers addressing poverty impact and financial inclusion. Credit unions are member-owned / client-owned, not-for-profit financial cooperatives that provide savings, credit and other financial services to their members. Credit unions pool their members' savings deposits and shares to finance their own loan portfolios. Credit unions offer a lower cost option to consumers. This allows consumers to retain greater consumer value, but also provides lower price option pressure on alternative for-profit financial institutions, such as banks or micro-finance institutions.

According to the latest figures from the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) there are 57,000 credit unions in 105 countries serving 217 million people with financial and other services.

Brian Branch, President and CEO of WOCCU, expands on some of the advantages and challenges for credit unions working on financial inclusion. One of the greatest challenges for credit unions are the regulatory burdens which increase the relative costs of serving small savings accounts and loans, therefore reducing the economic feasibility of financial inclusion of low income clients associated with small accounts. One of the greatest advantages of credit unions today is their ability to combine into networks for shared back office services to achieve greater efficiency or share platforms to offer consumers more expensive and sophisticated services less affordable to smaller stand-alone institutions.

Let's look at some of the publications in the Microfinance Gateway Library that address cooperatives and financial inclusion. We'll also include some resources for going into greater depth into the structures and practicalities of cooperatives and credit unions.


Efficiency and Profitability of Tanzanian Saving and Credit Cooperatives
Assessing the performance of SACCOs in Tanzania
Aug 2014, Journal of Economics and Behavioral Studies (JEBS)

Rwanda’s Financial Inclusion Success Story: Umurenge SACCOs
Discussing the success of community savings and credit cooperatives in Rwanda
Jul 2014, Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI)

Show Me the Money: Costs and Revenue of Youth Savings and Financial Education Services Offered by Credit Unions in Mali and Ecuador
Developing a savings product combined with financial education for the youth
Jun 2014, Freedom from Hunger, The MasterCard Foundation

Islamic Finance Manual: Operating Policies and Procedures for Credit Unions
Policies and procedures to establish Shariah-compliant credit unions based on cases in Afghanistan
Jul 2013, World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU)


Cooperative Finance in Developing Economies
Highlighting the importance of cooperatives
Jan 2012, Soma Prints Ltd

WOCCU's Financial Inclusion Resource Section
Additional resources for credit union governance and structuring