Leaders from Dominica’s credit unions visit US for training and information exchange

Credit unions, which serve 97% of the island’s population, were severely affected by Hurricane Maria in 2017

The World Council of Credit Unions (Woccu) is facilitating a US exchange visit for credit union executives from Dominica.

The delegation is also meeting with the Wisconsin Credit Union League and Indiana Credit Union League for training and information exchanges.

Dominica’s credit unions – which serve 97% of the 74,000-strong population – are still rebuilding after Hurricane Maria in 2017.

The island nation lost 96% of its GDP in 2018 after the storm destroyed its banana plantations, as well as a quarter of its buildings. While credit union branches have been revamped, their loan performance, balance sheets and income are suffering as the country’s economy is struggles to recover.

As part of the visit, Phoenix Belfield, manager of Dominica Cooperative Societies League Limited (DCSLL), met with Woccu’s advocacy team in Washington to discuss IFRS 9 international accounting standards and advocacy strategies for Dominica’s credit unions.

In Madison he and three colleagues received training from Woccu leaders on the PEARLS accounting system. They also met officials from the Wisconsin Credit Union League, UW Credit Union and Blackhawk Community Credit Union to learn about governance, financial best practices, training, and advocacy.

The tour will continue with a visit to Indiana Credit Union League, to look at agricultural lending, services and technology with officials at Interra Credit Union, and discuss product operations and strategic planning with professionals from Afena Federal Credit Union.

Woccu and ICUL members visited Dominica in 2018. The Dominica Cooperative Societies League Limited received support from the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions, Woccu’s charitable arm, which raised over US $200,000 (£153,366) to rebuild DCSLLL headquarters, as well as 10 credit union branches.

“The money raised through our Disaster Relief Fund allowed us to respond to the physical damage caused by Maria, but both Woccu and our state credit union leagues recognise there is much more work to be done to get the island’s credit union system completely back on its feet,” said Worldwide Foundation executive director Mike Reuter.

Phoenix Belfield, Manager of Dominica Cooperative Societies League Limited (DCSLL) said: “The exchange between the Dominica Credit Union movement and the Indiana Credit Union system epitomises one of our core co-operative ethos of co-operation among co-operatives and further highlights that co-operation has no boundaries.

“The timely intervention  of Woccu in facilitating this three-prong support program for the Dominica movement will go a long way in assisting the movement to strategically developed our credit union infrastructure in Dominica post Hurricane Maria. The core focus of this engagement speaks to the strengths of the Indiana credit union system in areas of strategic management and planning, agriculture lending, advocacy,  compliance and risk mitigation.”