PNG And the Power of Microfinance: An Overview of Cufa’s Sector Support and Future Engagement

Jacob De Leon, a fourth year Adelaide University student, has recently completed a semester internship with Cufa. His research project has focused on a comprehensive and detailed inquiry into Cufa’s historical involvement in Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville during its 50-year history. Jacob’s report walks us through the background of PNG’s economy, cultural and government leading up to Cufa’s involvement.

An interesting aspect that played a role in Cufa’s work in PNG were the Saving and Loan Societies. These were introduced by the Reserve Bank of Australia in 1962, acting similarly to Credit Unions in providing local places to save money, reaching their peak in the 1980’s. Their decline marked the rise of another financial institution type with Microfinance Institutions (MFI’s), which was supported by the Asian Development Bank taking precedent until today.

Cufa’s role emerged during the 1970’s, with the departure of the Australian administration in PNG, assisting the development of the Saving and Loan Societies, and growing a relationship with the PNG Department of the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Following the conclusion of the Bougainville conflict, the Bougainville Transitional Government in 1996 requested Cufa’s advice on establishing a microfinance scheme after the collapse of their banking sector. Cufa’s reach continues, with the report explaining how Cufa’s staff assisted in the digitization of the credit unions in 1996.

Today, Cufa is rebuilding its presence in PNG, having recently partnered with Tok Stret and UNCDF to deliver Financial Literacy training to Women. We are looking to further increase our projects in this area, working with local NGOs and donors to empower people to escape poverty.

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