96% of Venezuelan refugees lack access to financial services

World Council conducted market study in Colombia with Banca de las Oportunidades

MADISON, WI (June 17, 2019) — 96% of Venezuelan nationals who fled to Colombia to escape violence and economic collapse have no access to formal financial services—despite nearly half saying they crossed the border more than a year ago.

The new data comes from a market survey conducted in the Venezuelan border region of Colombia by the World Council of Credit Unions and Banca de las Oportunidades—a program of the Colombian national government aimed at promoting financial inclusion.

65% of the Venezuelan refugees surveyed reported a monthly income of less than 150,000 pesos—the equivalent of about US $46. More than three-quarters of the respondents said their top financial priority is opening a savings accounts, while another 20% said they needed access to credit. Nearly half said that saving to start their own business was a top priority.

Since 2016, the World Council has brought financial services to over 262,000 rural Colombians living on the Venezuelan border through a project funded by the Banca program. That project will end in August, but Banca is planning to continue its financial inclusion work along the border to address the needs of the refugees.

“Our Financial Inclusion Project Along the Border with Venezuela was a major success. We surpassed our original goal of bringing financial services to 210,000 people nine months early and will finish the project having reached 50,000 more than we had hoped,” said Oscar Guzman, World Council’s project director in Colombia. “Now the question is—how do we reach these people from Venezuela? We are working with Banca de las Oportunidades to figure out a solution.”

The study also showed the need for a government-funded program. While 80% of Colombian financial institutions reported a demand for service from Venezuelans, only 12% said they are currently serving the refugee population.

World Council and Banca presented their findings in June to several governmental agencies, financial institutions and international organizations—including the UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency.

About World Council of Credit Unions

World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development platform for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach. World Council has implemented 300+ technical assistance programs in 89 countries. Worldwide, 89,026 credit unions in 117 countries serve 260 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at


Greg Neumann

World Council of Credit Unions
Phone: +1-608-395-2000
Fax: +1-608-395-2001

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