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299. The cooperative model in microfinance: More current and pertinent than ever

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Coop Name: Desjardins Group N° of Employees: 45,219
City: Lévis N° of Members: 5800000
Country: Canada Year of formation: 1900
Website: http://www.desjardins.com Twitter: Link
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With more than 6 million members and clients, Desjardins Group is the largest cooperative financial group in Canada. As an International Co-operative Alliance member, Desjardins shares the same ideals as thousands of cooperatives around the world. These ideals are expressed through a set of values that defined the cooperative identity since the very start. For more than 40 years, its component Développement international Desjardins (DID) has been working with developing and emerging countries towards the goal of sharing the expertise and experience of Desjardins and helping local communities set up their own financial cooperative networks. DID’s goal is to provide disadvantaged communities around the world with access to secure, diversified financial services that fit their needs. Find stories from Desjardin Group and DID below.

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In the microfinance sector, cooperatives reach significantly more individuals and families than other financial institutions making them the actors who are truly responsible for improving access to financial services for all, and thereby increasing local economic growth and reducing poverty. Knowing that 2.5 billion individuals, three quarters of the world’s poor, still do not have an account in a formal financial institution, it is easy to understand the vital importance of the cooperative formula promoted by Développement international Desjardins (DID) and its partners, the members of the Proxfin international network.

Together, these community finance institution are making a significant contribution to advancing the microfinance sector. They all exercise uncontested leadership and most are the dominant microfinance institution in their respective milieu.

Some tangible results

In Burkina Faso, 75% of individuals with access to financial services do business with the RCPB network of financial cooperatives, which today is the biggest microfinance institution in the country.

In Vietnam, 1.6 million individuals do business with the Vietnam Association of People’s Credit Funds, the dominant microfinance institution in the country with its 1,071 cooperatives and service outlets, most of which are located in rural areas.

In Haiti, the Le Levier federation of financial cooperatives has played a key role in the country’s reconstruction since the earthquake that shook the population and economy of the country in January 2010. This cooperative network reaches over 40% of the population and has been able to take an active and effective part in the reconstruction of Haiti thanks to its deep roots in the community.

In Paraguay, the CENCOPAN network is composed of fifty financial cooperatives, including some of the biggest in the country, and reaches nearly a quarter of the population.

In Lithuania, the Lithuanian Central Credit Union and its affiliated cooperatives are the country’s only locally-owned financial institution, since all the banks that operate in the country are foreign owned.

On October 8 to 11, 2012, Proxfin members will converge on Quebec City for the International Summit of Cooperatives. This major cooperative event will offer Proxfin member institutions an opportunity for sharing ideas and innovations for advancing the cooperative sector around the world.

Author of this story
France Michaud
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