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SVG Microfinance Co-op launched

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The SVG Small Business and Microfinance Co-operative (COMFI) was formally inaugurated on Saturday, August 20, 2011, when 48 representatives of its 10 shareholder co-operatives gathered for the Inaugural General Meeting (IGM).{{more}}

Structured as a limited liability second-tier financial co-operative co-owned by credit unions and the SVG Co-operative League, COMFI’s ownership structure provides the opportunity for immediate outreach to more than 57,000 registered members of co-operatives throughout the country. COMFI plans to apply new approaches and innovations in microfinance to support its core service of savings driven, risk-based business lending to best serve the needs of entrepreneurs.

COMFI’s 7-member inaugural Board of Directors will focus on transitioning the organization through its start-up phase into a fully operational microfinance provider for small businesses. Attention will be given over the next year to recruiting staff; establishing COMFI’s organizational policies, procedures and operating systems; designing a price-competitive range of small business products and services; and implementing a marketing plan to promote the COMFI identity, brand and services.

The investment in COMFI is a new milestone in the SVG Co-operative League’s vision to create a business-oriented credit union service organization (CUSO) having a professional approach to developing quality MSME services for delivery to those lacking access to mainstream financing, in particular, farmers, women, youth and rural residents. This initiative underscores the League’s commitment to fostering a closer integration of the co-operative and small business sectors as a means of stimulating economic activity, jobs and incomes and reducing poverty.

COMFI’s inaugural Board of Directors will serve a one-year term with the following officers: Bro. Junior Bacchus, President; Bro. Telbert Samuel, Vice President; Bro. Gary Mathias, Treasurer; Bro. Julian Jack, Secretary; Sis. Monica Pope, Director; Bro. Michael John, Director; and Bro. Brenton Smith, Director.

The COMFI concept emerged from Recommendation 14 of the MSME Strategy and Policy produced by a Commonwealth Secretariat Mission (November 2009) at the request of the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The elaboration of the initial concept as a micro finance consortium at the May 2010 AGM of the League to its actual commencement with a Board now in place reflects 16 busy months of extensive consultation, dialogue, feasibility study, by-laws adoption, registration, business plan development, and initial capitalization – all led by the SVG Co-operative League.

With a total membership of 57,815, assets in excess of EC$305 million, deposits of EC$292 million, loans of EC$183 million and a combined net worth of EC$44 million, the credit union industry remains a principal source of savings and credit for more than 70% of the economically active population and a substantial base of the national economy.

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