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Buea P&T Credit Union Is Here To Stay – BOD Chair 

Interviewed By Walter Wilson Nana

The Buea Post & Telecommunication, P&T Cooperative Credit Union Limited is forty years old. So far, much has been achieved. But the President of the Board of Directors, Andrew Abimni Akombang, in this exclusive interview, is upbeat about future developments, the essence of gaining new grounds in the very competitive micro-finance sector and their wish to continue pursuing charitable activities in the communities they operate. Excerpts:

How is Buea P&T Cooperative Credit Union faring?

At the time that Buea P&T Credit Union is celebrating the ruby jubilee, we are doing just fine. In 2010, we registered some positive results and from the chapter of 22 credit unions where we are a member, Buea P&T Credit Union was the best on Non Deduction Credit Unions in the chapter. This is an indication that we managed our union well and showed positive results that were expected from us.

What is the Buea P&T Credit Union all about?

The credit union is a small business entity that has as owners the members. It is also a micro-finance institution that deals with the collection of savings from its members, grant them loans to carry out their various activities. It is a thrift & loan organisation and slightly bigger than the small "njangi houses" that we have around. However, it is not up to the conventional commercial banks that we have.

The credit union started in Cameroon in 1963, when Rev. Fr. Jansen, a Dutch priest, serving at Njinikom, Northwest Region, at the time, introduced credit unionism in West Cameroon. The initial savings was FCFA 2,100 and there were eleven members. That is how the idea moved out of the Northwest Region to the Southwest and ministerial departments picked on it. To make the idea popular, the people at the time decided to attach the idea to services.

That is how the Ministry of Post & Telecommunication came in as a satellite organisation to push forward the idea. The staff of P&T in Buea, at the time, came up with the name Buea P&T Cooperative Credit Union. At the beginning, it was decided that it should be open up to other interested people. Today, you will not only find P&T workers, all other individuals are invited to be part of the union.

Today, it is business organisation, how much is your running capital?

As at the first quarter of 2011, our share capital is above FCFA 2.5 billion. We are working hard to get to FCFA 3 billion at the close of 2011. Three years ago, we were staggering around FCFA 1 billion. Within the past one year, we moved up to FCFA 2 billion and more.

How do you intend to achieve your FCFA 3 billion target?

We are sensitising and encouraging our people to take loans, we are recruiting new members, expecting incomes from our investments; Buea P&T Credit Union has a hostel in the University of Buea community and our head office, where we have some tenants. We expect to have incomes from the aforementioned areas.

There is this public perception that micro-finance institutions like yours suddenly fold up after collecting a sizable chunk of money through savings. What’s your take on that?

We are talking about Buea P&T Credit Union. I will not want to delve into some other micro-finance institutions. The credit unions have an umbrella association called the Cameroon Credit Union League. If we are celebrating forty years today, it means the Buea P&T Credit Union has existed for forty years unlike some other micro-finance institutions that sprout today and after a few months or years they disappear.

We are well known in Cameroon, we have even gone international. Our union was represented in the 2010 World Conference of Credit Union in Las Vegas, USA. Buea P&T Credit Union was the only union from the Fako chapter in that international meeting that I attended. It shows that we are not folding up tomorrow, we are here to stay.

After forty years, what is the contribution of the Buea P&T Credit Union to the Cameroonian economy?

We have been able to grant employment to some Cameroonians, we save money belonging to economic operators. We pay taxes and carry out charities. In 2010, we assisted in a project to construct a Government Technical College in Munyegue, outskirt of Muyuka sub-division. In 2011, we will be offering scholarships to some deserving students, who are the children of some of our co-operators. We are contributing our widow’s mite to the economy of Cameroon.

Have you expanded your activities besides the office in Buea?

We have three branches; a branch at Idenau, where we are targeting the fishermen; there is a branch at Munyegue, where our target is the cocoa farmers and operators and another is in Molyko, Buea, where we carry out cash transfers to students, studying in the University of Buea.

The union is into acquisition of property. What is the motivation for that?

We are diversifying our activities. We are growing very fast. Before, co-operators will not demand for huge sums of loans, but today the challenges are becoming enormous, and our members are asking for huge sums of money. Hence, there is need for us to stretch out to other avenues where we can generate income. That’s why we have moved into real estates to get alternative sources of income.

When do you intend to become a commercial bank?

By their status, the credit unions cannot move into full time commercial banking activities. However, when some bigger credit unions attempted to move their services into that of full time commercial banking, Government called on CAMCCUL to gather their resources and create their own bank.

That is how the various credit unions came together and created the Union Bank of Cameroon. Buea P&T Credit Union is a share holder of the Union Bank of Cameroon. There are also some individual members of the various credit unions, who own shares in Union Bank of Cameroon. Since we already have a bank, it is not evident that Buea P&T Credit Union will be moving into full time commercial banking.

What are the highlights of your activities as you celebrate forty years in the first week of May 2011?

We will have educative meetings, reaching the people through the mass media, public quizzes will be organised, an open-day activity has been slated and we invite the public, economic operators, our co-operators to come around and share business and fruitful ideas.

Our co-operators are enjoined to come out in their numbers and show to the public what they do, thanks to the support from the Buea P&T Credit Union. This is a good forum for networking within the co-operators and with the public. On May 7, 2011, the D-Day, we will inaugurate our head office, a two-storey building and the 50-room capacity hostel in the Buea university community. We close the evening with a gala at the Buea Town Catholic hall.

What perspectives after forty years?

We will continue improving on our services we render to the public; assist our co-operators realise their dreams, ensure that people are financially rich and not poor and contribute to the development of Cameroon, thanks to a peaceful environment, which is the primary guarantee for the growth of our activities and subsequently look forward to our golden jubilee.

We also express gratitude to all our co-operators for their relentless support. The achievements realised so far are our collective endeavours. They should tenaciously stand by the credit union; save regularly, borrow wisely and repay promptly. We wish ourselves an exciting celebration in May 2011.

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