A section of Mentor Sacco members attentively following the proceedings of an AGM.

A toolkit developed by World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU) Technology and Innovation for Financial Inclusion (TIFI) project in collaboration with partner credit unions led to the distribution of 1,767 loans worth $41 million to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in four countries. Those are some of the results from the SME Lending Toolkit pilot programme  conducted in partnership with five credit union associations,  twenty three  individual credit unions and one credit union service organization in Kenya, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Guatemala. In Kenya, credit unions are known as savings and credit co-operative societies ( Saccos).

SME Finance

That data and the lessons learned from the pilot are featured in the new TIFI SME Lending Toolkit Learning Brief, which also shows the average loan ranged from roughly $11,000 in Kenya to more than $102,000 in Guatemala, with just a 1.53% portfolio at risk. “Many of these credit unions had experimented with SME finance in the past, but the high portfolio risk drove them to reduce or stop that lending altogether. The SME Lending Toolkit took a holistic approach by supporting credit unions to leverage the strengths of the cooperative model, while adjusting their strategies, staff capacity and operations to the needs of SMEs. It has allowed them to increase their SME portfolios and better manage their risk,” said Eileen Miamidian, WOCCU Technical Director of Inclusive Financial Services.

The implementation of the toolkit also generated a series of important lessons for credit unions seeking to increase outreach to SMEs in their markets. Credit unions can play an important role in financing SMEs. Their presence in the market and large member base gives them an edge in identifying and serving SMEs in need of finance.

Many credit unions require a change of mindset to make the adjustments needed to offer market-responsive SME products while managing risk. Comprehensive capacity building can enable the board of directors  and senior management to lead this change. Digitalization and innovation are also   essential to meeting the financial needs of SMEs.  Additionally, sustainable SME finance includes environmental and social considerations.


The TIFI Project is a six-year activity funded by the USAID Cooperative Development Programme  (CDP) that will conclude in August 2024. WOCCU is continuing the work of the TIFI Project and expanding on it in those same four countries through USAID-CDP Accelerating Growth and Inclusion in Lending for Credit Unions (AGIL4CU) Project (2023-28). The AGIL4CU Project is further advancing the ability of credit unions to provide value to their members and contribute to the economic development of their communities, while extending business and climate financing to underserved market segments, including women and youth.



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