Credit unions plan to address needs of Venezuelan refugees in Colombia

Colombia has the highest number of refugees and migrants from Venezuela – more than a million

Research by the World Council of Credit Unions (Woccu) and Banca de las Oportunidades shows that around 96% of Venezuelan refugees in Colombia have no access to formal financial services.

Woccu is now exploring options to address the issue. Since 2016, it has brought financial services to over 262,000 rural Colombians living on the Venezuelan border through a project funded by Banca, a programme run by the Colombian national government to promote financial inclusion.

The project combines different microfinance methodologies, such as village banking, community banks, individual microcredit, and village and savings loans. As part of the scheme, field agents take motorcycle trips to border areas to offer mobile banking services.

Related: Woccu project provides financial services to rural Colombian communities

“Our Financial Inclusion Project Along the Border with Venezuela was a major success,” said Oscar Guzman, Woccu’s project director in Colombia. “We surpassed our original goal of bringing financial services to 210,000 people nine months early and will finish the project having reached 50,000 more than we had hoped.

“Now the question is – how do we reach these people from Venezuela? We are working with Banca de las Oportunidades to figure out a solution.”

The survey revealed that 65% of the Venezuelan refugees have a monthly income of less than 150,000 pesos (£36.54).

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), 5,000 people left Venezuela every day in 2018 in search of protection or a better life. Colombia has the highest number of refugees and migrants from Venezuela – more than one million.

Around three quarters of Venezuelans taking part in the survey said their top financial priority was opening a savings account, with another 20% wanting access to credit. Half said their top priority was saving to start their own business.

The survey also included Colombian financial institutions, 80% of which reported a demand for service from Venezuelans, with only 12% saying they were serving the refugee population.

Earlier this month Woccu and Banca presented their findings to governmental agencies, financial institutions and international organisations, including the UNHCR.


In this article

Join the Conversation