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Heading for the border

The World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) reported this past March that one of their special initiatives, Financial Inclusion Project at the Border with Venezuela, a collaboration with Banca de las Oportunidades, had reached 224,378 rural, low-income Colombians.

The number not only surpassed the original goal of 210,000, it did so far ahead of its August deadline, Wisconsin-based WOCCU stated in a media release.

Under the project, field agents travel to border areas via motorcycle to offer mobile banking services, support financial literacy activities and boost savings. The agents linked small and medium business enterprises, farmers and entrepreneurs with local groups that could train them in income-generation activities. The project also generated employment and entrepreneurship for people with no income. As a result, nearly 86,000 people, including displaced populations, became part of Colombia’s formal financial system for the first time.

Oscar Guzman, WOCCU’s director of the Financial Inclusion Project at the Border with Venezuela, stated that the program is “very important for the people living along the border. Most of the rural communities don’t have access to a physical credit union or bank branch,” Guzman said.

Colombians living along the border have been challenged since July 2016 by a flood of Venezuelans fleeing an economic and political crisis that is only getting worse.

Just a decade ago, Venezuela was one of the wealthiest countries in Latin America. Colombia’s government now predicts it will be reluctantly hosting up to four million Venezuelan migrants by 2021. ◊