Blog » Strengthening Financial Cooperatives in West Africa: kick off ceremony with CIF
By Rubiga Sivakumaran, Rachel Sberro-Kessler and Mathieu Soglonou
On March 19th 2021, as part of their joint global program to strengthen financial cooperatives, both World Bank (WB) and Rabo Partnerships (RP) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on mutual cooperation with CIF, the West African regional confederation of financial cooperatives, during a virtual kick off ceremony.
Supported by the Netherlands Ministry of Trade & Development Cooperation and Rabo Foundation, the financial cooperatives (FinCoop) program has the objective to promote financial cooperative development in selected countries by strengthening the networks, as well as improving the regulatory and supervisory environment they operate in. This with the underlying ambition to structurally improve the position of the cooperative networks, therewith enhancing financial inclusion, private sector development and food security.
CIF is the regional confederation of 6 national networks of financial cooperatives in 5 countries in West Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, and Togo. The combined network of credit cooperatives is widespread, operating at 800 locations and serving approximately 4 million clients. Yet, CIF expressed its strong ambitions to further strengthen the network, and believes it can achieve that with the support of RP and WB. Another important stakeholder in this cooperation is La FINAO, which is the result of a partnership established between CIF and its member networks with the Swiss group “Elephant Vert”.
Kick off ceremony: main takeaways
The kick off ceremony started off with heartening opening words by Mr. Mathieu Soglonou (Managing Director of CIF), expressing his expectations and motivation for the cooperation. He is convinced that the support of RP and WB through the various activities represents an opportunity for the CIF Network to comply, and to strengthen the internal control mechanism. Ideally, the cooperation leads to strong and sustainable institutions allowing the network to better serve its member and client base.
Afterwards, Mr. Bjorn Schrijver (Lead FinCoop program at RP) reflected on the overall objectives of the program, as well as the ambitions of the mutual cooperation between CIF and RP, and the phased approach towards a multi-year Technical Cooperation project. Specifically, the main opportunities and ambitions were described, which include:
After signing of the MoU, Mr. Frank Nagel (Director RP) emphasized that RP is honoured and overjoyed to start its engagement with CIF and leverage on this partnership to enhance financial inclusion - closely working together on improving agricultural finance and digitization.
From WB’s side, Mrs. Rachel Sberro-Kessler (Financial Sector Specialist WB) explained their role and vision in this cooperation. She highlighted the importance of responsible financial inclusion for development, and how access to diversified and suitable financial services can help the low-income population to seize opportunities and manage risks. In particular, financial cooperatives can play a key role to advance financial inclusion given that they are governed by their members and that these are generally low-income segments, often in rural areas. Considering the scale and scope of CIF’s activities in West Africa, a partnership with CIF has great potential to improve financial inclusion in the region. In the coming months the World Bank will support CIF on two workstreams: CIF supervision mechanisms as well as a CIF safety nets.
Other important stakeholders were given the floor as well: Mr. Eric Ekue (President of La FINAO), network managing director representatives, network staff representatives, and other partners from CIF such as the Swiss Capacity Building Fund, ADA , and KfW.
The closing word was delivered by Mr. Alain Ousmane Zidouemba (Vice-President of CIF), who thanked, on behalf of the CIF Network, the RP and WB partners for their confidence and engagement.
What is next?
Now that the MoU is signed, it is time to start working on the next steps. For RP this means to first conduct an operational review of both CIF and La FINAO with a team of Rabobank experts. The objective is to obtain a thorough understanding of the current state of affairs within the network, of any pain points and opportunities. After the Review RP and CIF will organise a strategy workshop, in order to arrive at a shared vision going forward, and identify any gaps that may need to be overcome to realise the strategy. This will set the development agenda for the coming years, and RP will draft a project proposal to support execution of the agenda. It is expected that this will trigger specific activities in the expected areas of commercial development, channel management, risk management & compliance, IT & operations, finance, and organization. As soon as all parties are aligned on the scope, this automatically marks the start of the next phase: executing the activities.
Meanwhile, and as detailed by Mr. Basile Kousagou N’Dah (Inspecteur Général of CIF), WB will support two diagnostics in the coming months to support CIF. Under the “delegated supervision” model, CIF is in charge of supervising its affiliates on behalf of BCEAO and is also in charge of setting up a solidarity fund to support its affiliates. In the coming months, the World Bank will support two diagnostics. The first will assess the existing supervision mechanisms, and identify drivers for its improvement. The study will comprise and analysis of current supervision procedures, their foundations, and their effectiveness. Recommendations based on international experience will be formulated. The second diagnostic will focus on the existing safety net mechanisms (security or solidarity funds, deposit protection), and identify options for improvement. This study will analyze the different mechanisms currently in use by CIF and its affiliates, and will formulate recommendations based on international experience that would make the mechanisms more effective, and more affordable, than the ones currently in place.
Working side by side, RP and WB aim to strengthen each other’s activities, the network of CIF, and ultimately CIF’s member/client base.