THE HISTORY OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF COOPERATIVE SAVINGS AND CREDIT UNIONS OF ZIMBABWE (NACSCUZ)
The Transformation from Savings Clubs to Credit Unions in the Post-Independence Period
In the post-1980 period the numbers of savings clubs increased impressively, growing from 5000 in 1983 to 7000 by 1998, with membership moving between 125,000 and 100,000 during the same period. In addition, there were also savings clubs that were set up outside of this structure, or with help of extension officers.
In terms of its legal standing, before 1980 the NGO leading the movement was registered as the Wycomb Foundation, operating as a kind of saving and credit cooperative, largely under the management of a few sympathetic whites, including the founder Brother Waddilove.
In 1985 ACCOSCA at the invitation of the Zimbabwean government carried out a study of the potential of savings and credit cooperatives in Zimbabwe. The study indicated a good potential for the mobilization and development of savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOS) and recommended the active promotion of these cooperatives. This task was given to a national steering committee which in turn led to the formation of NACSCUZ in 1986, whose mandate was to promote SACCOS nationwide.
During its formative stages NACSCUZ relied on volunteers to carry out its mandate, but in 1988 after contact was made through ACCOSCA, the Canadian Cooperative Association (CCA) provided initial funding that allowed NACSCUZ to hire two full time staff and open an office. This was followed by two more grants that enabled the establishment of regional offices and recruitment of additional staff and purchase of vehicles and office equipment.
With only the experience of a few savings and credit cooperatives and savings clubs to draw from, NACSCUZ went about the task of organizing SACCOs using motivational seminars as as its instrument for promotion. A number of SACCOS were thus organized. The movement grow rapidly over the years and at its peak NACSCUZ had a membership of 53 SACCOs with a collective membership of 96 000 cooperators. Savings amounted to US$ 840 000, Loans US$ 900 000, Reserves US$ 650 000 and an asset base of close to US$ 2, 700 000.
The economic meltdown of the year 2003/4 to 2004 which hit Zimbabwe like a tsunami did not spare the cooperative movement. During this period, the SACCO movement was weighed down by the hyperinflationary environment which subsequently eroded the Zimbabwe dollar leading into it being demonetized in 2009. It is during this same period that NACSCUZ experienced donor flight leading to its closure in 2005. The closure of NACSCUZ left a vacuum in the SACCO movement since all experience personnel who had manned it over the years left the SACCO movement and joined other sectors of the economy, thus taking away with them vital institutional memory.
After realizing the importance of an apex association for the SACCO movement, 10 SACCOs, with guidance from the parent ministry convened a meeting in March 2012 to deliberate on the modalities of resurrecting NACSCUZ. A resuscitation team was constituted and tasked with the uphill task of reviving NACSCUZ.
Realizing that there were former employees of NACSCUZ who were eager to work with the team in the revival process, the resuscitation team incorporated them into their structures but solely as Technical Advisors on a voluntary basis. The Technical Advisors facilitated a strategy workshop that came up with a five year strategy for NACSCUZ. The same strategy document was reviewed in February 2016 to cover the period 2016-2020.
The number of SACCOs has increased to 118 as at June 2016. The number of affiliates to NACSCUZ has also increased.
NACSCUZ and indeed the credit union movement suffer from a number of challenges that impair their performance. These challenges cut across the four perspectives of Learning and Growth, Operational systems, membership satisfaction and financial growth. Specific problems to NACSCUZ include the ones listed below:
- Some of the challenges getting in the way of positive financial results include shrinking interest margins, health of the over-all economy and the resultant impact on their members’ financial health.
- Interest margins, the difference between what a credit union earns on funds and what it must pay depositors for those funds used to be large enough to cover operating expenses and provide a healthy bottom line to grow capital.
- The extremely low interest rate and competitive environment
- Limited/ under developed Services
- Loan delinquency
- Lack of accounting and financial reporting skills/ Computerization
- Non registration / non affiliation of SACCOS to the apex body
- Lack of SACCO specific legislation
- Lack of education and training
However even with all today’s challenges, credit unions are arguably the brightest stars in the financial services industry and that comes from their historic and continued focus on what really matters, service to members.
ADDRESSING THE CHALLENGES
In order to mitigate the above challenges, NACSCUZ shall adopt robust strategies drawn from its past experiences. Some of the strategies are outlined below:
- Human resources development-developing a pool of knowledgeable and dedicated leaders at all levels of the savings and credit cooperative movement
- Development of model SACCOS through the setting up of standard indicators, implementation of a classification system and provision of professional services
- Business orientation in SACCO operations through the promotion of market oriented savings and loan products.
- Active promotion and marketing of the SACCO concept , ideas and philosophy
- Efficient resource management by maximizing income through the efficient use of present resources, adoption of cost control measures and investment in productive assets.
NACSCUZ as a growing apex association for a growing SACCO movement is receptive to all forms of assistance, material or non material, financial or technical from progressive SACCO promoting institutions.
Mr O Mabukwa
Chairman, National Association of Co-operative Savings and Credit Union of Zimbabwe (NACSCUZ)