THE International Decade for People of African Descent Assembly – Guyana (IDPADA-G) launched its Cooperative Credit Union Society to financially empower Afro-Guyanese in accordance with the theme of the International Decade and a mandate given by President David Granger.
The International Decade for People of African Descent 2015–2024 was proclaimed by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly under the theme “People of African descent: recognition, justice and development.”
At the launch of the credit union at the Critchlow Labour College on Saturday, IDPADA-G Chairman, Vincent Alexander, said development becomes difficult without the requisite financial resources, and the credit union is intended to respond to the financial and development needs of persons of African descent. He said for far too long persons of African descent have been starved of the financial resources to develop and expand businesses or even provide advanced education to their children.
“We have been under-recognised if not derecognised. We have been treated unfairly and we have been underdeveloped,” he told scores of persons who had turned up to get registered.
Alexander reminded that President Granger, while delivering the keynote address at a Cuffy 250 forum in 2016, challenged persons of African descent to get their act together. The IDPADA-G Chairman said the launch of the Credit Union is a manifestation of Afro-Guyanese uniting for a common good.
Explaining that shortage of resources stifles development, Alexander said in order to pursue recognition, justice and development, persons of African descent must have access to a fund that would enable their development. He said it is time to create that ‘pot.’
“One of the things that we have to do is create that pot – a pot in which we can pool our resources and a pot from which we can garner resources for our individual or collective endeavours,” Alexander said.
While underscoring the importance of pooling their resources, the IDPADA-G Chairman reminded Afro-Guyanese that it was the collective resources of their foreparents that resulted in the purchase of Victoria – the first village bought by Africans after their freedom from slavery.
Alexander said the Credit Union will be managed on the principles of transparency and equity.
“We are challenged to manage effectively and efficiently what we put in that pot. We are challenged to be transparent and opened with what we do so that none of the mistakes of the past are repeated. So we will continue to be an organisation of integrity….You are challenged to put something in the pot…so we can experience development,” the IDPADA-G Chairman said.
IDPADA Chief Executive Officer, Olive Sampson, told reporters that after more than 50 outreaches across the country, involving hundreds of persons of African descent, it was confirmed that that group of people experiences difficulties accessing credit.
“We can get a Jam Zone loan, we can get a cell phone loan but we can’t get a loan for a small business, we can’t get a loan to help to buy a computer for our kids or a machine to start a business. So we thought we needed to respond to that. That, coupled with the fact that the United Nations theme for the decade identifies development as one of its central themes,” Sampson explained.
Like Alexander, the IDPADA-G CEO recalled the challenge by President Granger in 2016, when he called on Afro-Guyanese to unite and fulfil the mandate of the InternationalDecade. At that time, he said the President urged the community to focus on five areas – education, employment, economic, equity and expiation.
Sampson noted that the credit union was being launched on United Nations International Day of Cooperatives. “Cooperatives have a very special place for us as African Guyanese, because, between 1838 and 1848, emancipated Africans came together, pooled the little money they had been able to save during the period of apprenticeship and purchased abandoned plantations. That was the first cooperative action taken by any group of people anywhere in the world. That is why Guyana is the Cooperative Republic of Guyana,” she said.
That movement, she said, ought to be emulated by Africans of today’s society. “Based on that powerful movement, that powerful example of our strength and our ability to come together, we feel that we can once again spark that energy, that drive and that success by coming together in a cooperative way through a credit union,” Sampson noted.
The IDPADA-G CEO explained that Saturday marked the start of registration for persons interested in joining the credit union, through which they will be able to access finance to develop themselves in various areas of business and development.
“It’s African Guyanese in any kind of business, in any walk of life, in any status, as part of our response to the UN Decade, this is for African Guyanese who are farmers, home-makers, a parent trying to find a way to educate his or her child, it is for a small business person, a medium size business person,” Sampson explained.
She noted that IDPADA-G has the requisite documents in place including a business plan, and will submit them to the Ministry of Social Protection, Department of Cooperatives in the coming week.
“Our application is going to be strengthened by the fact that we can display that we have this many people who have already made a commitment to form a cooperative,” she said. On Saturday, IDPADA-G targeted some 500 persons, however, with more outreaches in the pipeline, the membership base is expected to expand rapidly. Persons were able to purchase their first share value for $1000.
Julieana Nicholas of Paradise on the East Coast of Demerara (ECD), was the first to arrive on Saturday. Though registration was slated to commence at 11:00hrs, Nicholas was at the Critchlow Labour College since 7:30hrs.
She had learnt about the launching of the credit union Friday night from a television report. Nicholas said she sees the Credit Union as an opportunity for persons of African descent to have easy access to finance to start up and expand their businesses. “I am a poultry farmer. I have been doing it for the past 12 years, and I want to extend my business, rear more poultries, so that I can supply a vast number of customers. And this is why I choose the entity and I have already signed up,” the East Coast resident told Guyana Chronicle.
Nicholas said that in the past, she approached the commercial bank to finance the expansion of her business but was turned away on the basis that she had no collateral.
“What happens, most times when you approach the banks and you don’t have the criteria that the banks are looking for, take for instance, you may be doing a business but the place that your business is located, you do not own that place, and if you are asking for a loan for expansion you must be able to get a collateral to lodge at that bank; but if you don’t own the place, how could you produce a transport? You may be able to produce a business registration but you don’t have a transport for the property,” she explained.
According to her, accessing a loan from the bank to expand a business is “tedious” and “frustrating.” Nicholas was among the hundreds of persons of African descent who visited the Critchlow Labour College to join the union. Similar outreaches will be held in other parts of the country in the coming month.