The Insurance Association of The Gambia Cooperative Credit Union (IAGCCU) has disclosed the modest achievements registered by the union in the face of difficulties since its establishment a year ago.
At their maiden annual general meeting held at the Laico Atlantic Hotel in Banjul recently, executive members of the IAGCCU said they found it difficult initially to have the confidence of insurers to be members of the credit union.
Lamin Yarboe, chairman of the executive committee, disclosed that at the beginning, they found it very difficult to source even working capital for the credit union. "We approached all the companies in the industry but none of them was willing to give us the money," he said.
The one-year journey was not very smooth but by dint of hard work, dedication and determination to succeed, coupled with the support of members of the credit union, they were able to make it, Mr Yarboe said, thanking Henry Jawo, secretary general of the Insurance Association of The Gambia (IAG), for his support, words of encouragement and wisdom during the difficult times of the credit union.
"When we started the credit union, we did not have a penny but thank God today we are giving loans, which is a testimony of how far we have gone," said Raymond Ceesay, vice chairman of the credit union.
The treasurer of the union, Sirrah Jammeh, in her remarks on the occasion, said the total savings of the union for the year under review is D220,200.
She said in 2012 the credit union gave D81,400, and from January to 15 February 2013 it disbursed more than D90,000 as loan.
The byelaws of the IAGCCU state that members are only entitled to loans or withdrawals after six months of regular savings, and the loans of the credit union attract an interest rate of 1.25% per month. All the loans given by the credit union as of now are on short-and medium-term basis.
Hameh B. Jawara of the National Co-operative Credit Union of The Gambia (NACCUG), the apex body of credit unions in the country, in his remarks, urged the executive members of the IAGCCU to encourage more savings and discourage withdrawals.
"This does not mean that people cannot withdraw but when you keep on withdrawing all the time then you will not be eligible for any loan at the time you may need it and besides, this will not help the credit union to grow," he said. "But when you take loan, after meeting the criteria, you can pay with the minimal interest rate so that the credit union can also grow."
Mr Jawara said NACCUG has been observing the IAGCCU and has noticed that the credit union is growing. "We have noticed that the credit union though young is growing in terms of both balance sheet and membership, which is encouraging," he said.
Saihou Samba, secretary general of the IAGCCU, said membership of the credit union is voluntary and open to all staff of all insurance companies that are members of the IAG.
There are plans to include brokers and agents who are in the business of insurance and are attached to member insurance companies, Mr Samba said, adding that the present membership of the IAGCCU is more than 100 insurers.
The mandatory monthly contribution of members to the credit union is D100 as at present, the IAGCCU secretary general said, adding: "This amount is only the minimum and there is no maximum, as members are free to save as much as they can. We have been receiving regular monthly savings of up to D1,500 from members and this is quite encouraging."
Mr Samba thanked the president and the secretary general the IAG, Dawda Sarge and Henry Jawo respectively for providing vital support to the union.