Credit unions can change a continent

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

How do you change a continent? One webinar, one workshop, or one online course at a time.

In October 2021, I was fortunate to attend and present at the ACCOSCA annual conference of its 28 member countries around Africa, better known as the SACCA Congress. ACCOSCA is the African Confederation of Co-operative Savings and Credit Association, the pan-African confederation of national associations of savings and credit co-operatives. This amazing SACCA Congress changed my life and my perceptions of the credit union professionals in Africa in so many ways!

In Africa, credit unions are referred to as Savings and Credit Co-operatives (SACCOs). By spending 10 days with SACCO leaders and board members, I experienced firsthand their People Helping People spirit in action. To paraphrase the musical Hamilton, I learned three fundamental things at the exact same time:

  1. SACCOs are committed to directly serving African people not generally served by the formal financial sector – just like US credit unions; plus,
  2. SACCOs strive to improve the financial well-being of their members – just like US credit unions; and,
  3. SACCOs know that educating their leadership, board members, and staff is the future of their credit union movement – just like US credit unions.

Before I knew it, I was knee deep in the dream to build The ACCOSCA Academy, a first-of-its-kind training center for SACCA leadership, staff, board members, and community members from around the continent. We spent every spare minute between sessions at the conference brainstorming ways to reach and train the most SACCO enthusiasts from around the continent of Africa.

The ACCOSCA Academy will improve training standards, enhance skills, and build strong governance and leadership programs resulting in sustainable SACCOS. The outcome of this center of learning will strengthen and grow the African SACCO system while at the same time improve the lives and livelihoods of the African people. The ACCOSCA Academy will benefit African credit union leaders from National Associations, Savings and Credit Co-operatives, legislators, regulators, and the community at large.

Dozens of US credit unions, credit union leaders, and credit union partners have jumped in with their hearts, their boots on the ground, and their checkbooks to ensure The ACCOSCA Academy comes to life. And in October 2022, what we’re affectionately calling the Climb Africa Campaign will culminate with a literal climb of Mount Kilimanjaro alongside community development work in Kenya and Malawi.

I am proud to participate in the Climb Africa Campaign because of my passion for education and the growth of the credit union movement around the world.

CU Difference founder and credit union legend Lois Kitsch is the Chairperson of the African Co-operative Development Foundation. She shared that “The ACCOSCA Academy – the first of its kind in Africa – will use a blended learning approach to relevant training programs while providing a forum for Africa’s SACCO leaders to think about how SACCOS can empower lives and build livelihoods across the continent of Africa.”

The ACCOSCA Academy:

  • Creates opportunities for SACCO employees to gain knowledge, learn new skills and build confidence they will apply in their home institutions to benefit their members.
  • Represents an international partnership of financial institutions.
  • Recognizes the generosity of credit unions around the world, as well as corporations, foundations, and individuals, joining in support of African progress.
  • Introduces advanced technology for reaching more audiences and sharing ideas.
  • Fosters a sense of pride and unity among National Associations.
  • Presents space for growing advocacy and convening SACCO-related organizations and regulators.
  • Provides a forum for addressing critical issues, solving problems, and establishing best practices.
  • Motivates and encourages leaders and an entrepreneurial spirit.
  • Increases job and career potential for employees from entry-level to executive.
  • Enriches the lives of members, their families, and their communities.

At The ACCOSCA Academy, advanced education and training for savings and credit co-operative employees, along with advanced technology, will enable more people from greater distances to participate, increasing competencies at all levels, preparing leaders with leadership experiences and introducing new ideas and effective problem-solving strategies.

George Ombado, ACCOSCA Executive Director, worked with the ACCOSCA Board to envision this dream to improve the continent of Africa through education. In fact, he says, “Economic and social empowerment of people living in Africa profoundly depends on the financial education knowledge they acquire. I believe training on the impact and efficacy of the Credit Union Model through the Academy to management and leadership has an enormous potential of transforming the communities in Africa by increased membership penetration of the Co-operative Model.”

The ACCOSCA Academy is ready to play a proactive, productive role in helping Africa achieve its economic potential and giving Africans a better place to live and work. Are you ready to help us eat this elephant?

Please visit us here, or email me directly at and I’d be delighted to share more information.

Angela Prestil

Angela Prestil

As Senior Consultant for CU Difference, Angela brings a distinct specialty set in the critical areas of employee engagement, leadership development, and member loyalty strategies. She has helped hundreds of ... Web: Details