For the past 25 years, Oikocredit USA, officially known as EDC USA, has partnered with the Oikocredit International cooperative in the Netherlands to expand access to financial services for the poor living in developing countries. This role was carried out largely through a US-based social investment program.
Now, after an intensive year of strategic engagement and deliberation, the Board of Oikocredit USA has decided to terminate its social investment program, which functioned mainly to support the cooperative through its early growth years while building US awareness about global poverty. As of January 1, Oikocredit USA ceased accepting new investments and began to repay its current investors.
“The Board of Oikocredit USA recognizes the small role the current investment program played in the Oikocredit cooperative’s growth aspirations,” said Gary Cook, chair of the Oikocredit USA board. “At this time, there are ways through which US staff and the US market can support Oikocredit’s work that will better serve its mission than the investment program offered by Oikocredit USA,” he said.
Oikocredit International now has established an office in Washington, DC and is transitioning the existing Oikocredit USA staff to the new entity. Sharlene Brown, current National Director, will continue to work with Oikocredit USA to oversee the winding down process.
“We see many opportunities for the Oikocredit organization in the US,” said David Woods, Managing Director of Oikocredit International. “We already engage regularly with US-based organizations that co-invest with us, assist us in investment in various ways, and are active in working with agricultural producers in many of the countries where we work.”
He noted that the two US-based Oikocredit support associations, Oikocredit Northwest and Oikocredit Western Pennsylvania, will continue their ongoing efforts to raise awareness of economic development issues and support Oikocredit International.
Since 1990, US investors working through Oikocredit USA have provided over $34 million to the cooperative’s total capital available to low-income communities.
“Although significant, Oikocredit USA’s operational approach has largely remained unchanged since inception while Oikocredit International has both the adequate staff and sophisticated business acumen to raise significant amounts of capital cost effectively,” said Cook. In 2014, for example, Oikocredit International grew its development financing portfolio to $889.2 million, a rise of 24 per cent from 2013. The cooperative reaches 37 million people through its microfinance portfolio alone, and has 805 partners across 63 countries.