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Let me start by sharing an incredible fact: did you know that around 1.7 billion people worldwide don't have access to basic financial services? That's about one-third of the global population!

This lack of access to basic financial services ultimately hinders people's abilities to save, borrow, and invest money in their futures. In East Africa, however, something has been going on for years. The Cooperative movement has made significant strides in growing financial inclusion and empowering local communities. For those unfamiliar with the concept, cooperatives are organizations owned and controlled by those who use their services, usually functioning democratically to meet specific needs. In the case of East Africa, cooperatives like SACCOs (Savings and Credit Cooperative Organizations) have played a vital role in developing the region's financial ecosystem. These institutions have opened doors to the banking world and transformed lives by creating opportunities for rural and economically disadvantaged populations. 

I remember one time when I visited a region in Tanzania called Kagera. I met a man today who had a business with 14 employees. I sat down with him in his office, discussing how he had built his business. In his own words, he told me that he tried for years to get access to credit from the formal sector, but he needed more financial history to show. His solution was to start saving in a local SACCO, which led to the right to take a loan. He used this capital to start his business and took multiple loans afterwards. Stories like this exist everywhere in the region.

Financial inclusion isn't just about opening doors to banks and other financial institutions. It's about giving people the tools, knowledge, and resources they need to take control of their financial well-being. Through Cooperative movements, access to financial education has increased substantially in East Africa, enabling members to make informed decisions and providing guidance to foster economic stability and success. An African proverb says, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." This message perfectly encapsulates the essence of cooperatives - fostering unity, collaboration, and long-term development.

The influence of the Cooperative movement in East Africa is a remarkable story; its impact on financial inclusion for millions of people cannot be overstated. And as East African nations continue to grow in both financial strength and economic stability, the Cooperative movement will continue to play a pivotal role in that growth. In Wakandi, we are in the middle of these events by working closely with the SACCOs to digitise them. If you want to learn more?

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