Sierra Leone is located in West Africa. It had a thriving cooperative movement prior to its decade long civil war, which ended in 2002. In 2009, there were only ten credit unions left with a total membership of 2,000. In 2013 the Foundation, in partnership with the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada (CDF) and the Credit Union Association of Ghana (CUA), set out to revitalise the credit union movement and expand financial services to thousands of people in communities in Sierra Leone. This project began successfully and progressed; however, in early 2014 the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak in history led to its suspension and the Technical Advisor who was overseeing the project had to leave the country. In November 2015 Sierra Leone was declared Ebola free and we were in a position to commence our work on re-building sustainable credit unions.
ILCUF Ltd, Freetown
The Foundation team in Sierra Leone, ILCUF Ltd, is headed by Solomon Mwongyere, and are based on Fort Street. The team is comprised of monitoring officers, a training officer, financial literacy officer, IT officer and finance and admin officers. The team supports the credit unions directly and also provides support to NaCCUA – www.naccuasl.org
In 2018 the Foundation was awarded funding from Irish Aid for a three year project to support the development of credit unions, and build on the work undertaken to date. The Financial Inclusion for Resilience (FIRSL) project aims to improve resilience of 13,000 poor and disadvantaged people and their families (72,800 people in total) in Sierra Leone. In year one, the project supported the development of credit unions, the capacity of their apex body, the National Cooperative Credit Unions Association (NaCCUA), and the credit union regulatory authorities.
The Foundation was awarded further funding from Irish Aid in 2021 to continue its support to develop the credit union movement in Sierra Leone. Working with local staff the Foundation will begin the next three-year project in November 2021. The aim of Step Up, is to continue to build on the work that has already been undertaken and support credit unions at the grassroots and the national apex body, NaCCUA.