Improving the microfinance sector through relevant education

“My name is Lydia Mutua. I am the registrar in the Division of Co-operative Management Research and Innovation at The Co-operative University of Kenya. We are a public institution that was founded in 1952 to train cooperative officers. With time we increased our offering and catered to a wider audience which saw us elevated to a fully-fledged university in 2016.” 

The Co-operative University of Kenya focuses on many key areas some of which include cooperative development and community development. They also offer business courses and have a degree in Microfinance with specializations in both Bachelor of Commerce (BCOM) and Bachelor of Co-operative Business (BCOOP). 

“We are the first institution to offer a microfinance program at the bachelor level. Swisscontact supported us through this journey and helped our institution even before we were accredited as a university. They supported us in developing relevant and marketable diploma programs. In 2019, they further helped us clearly define our short courses and develop our microfinance degree specializations. We launched the program in October the same year and were impressed by the number of students who lined up to enrol. The finance practitioners were also excited about our new offering since it addressed skill gaps and real-life challenges affecting the financial sector, incorporated relevant examples for better understanding and crafted solutions for sustainable results,” explains Lydia. 

The curriculum development process was very comprehensive and incorporated insights from all relevant stakeholders. Swisscontact conducted a training needs assessment which guided the development process. With collaboration, Co-operative University was able to draft a marketable curriculum that went through several quality checks including evaluation by several finance practitioners before the final approval was issued by the university senate. 

“We developed thirteen courses in total which were embedded into our main curriculum offering for the BCOM and BCOOP courses. Some of the integrated courses include leadership and governance, marketing and innovation, performance, credit management and cybersecurity. Students usually select their specialisation courses in their third year of study, and it takes them at least four semesters to complete before graduation. We strongly believe this program addresses the needs of the microfinance sector because of its thorough assessment,” Lydia affirms. 


Since the microfinance field is always changing, partnerships are important for the university. They boast of several partners in the microfinance sector who have not only critically evaluated how relevant and marketable the program is but have also contributed information to advance the knowledge being passed on. 

“The partnership between our institution and Swisscontact has been effective and successful. Deliberating and signing the MoU took under two months which is very fast if compared to other collaborations. Swisscontact was determined to see us succeed and facilitated several stakeholder forums that turned out to be worthwhile. We got to understand the skill gaps in the market and weighed in on the possibility of developing a microfinance post-graduate program in addition to availing short courses online. We were fortunate to work with a like-minded partner and we are confident that our course offering will bring meaningful change to the microfinance industry in Kenya. When we develop our student skill sets and build the practitioner capacities, they can offer quality services to the community. Once our community is economically empowered, it grows and, in the end, we contribute to poverty alleviation,” Lydia happily comments. 

The Inclusive Finance Programme (IFP) was financed by Stiftung ESPERANZA, Credit Swiss Foundation, Kanton Basel–Landschaft, Kanton Zurich, Stadt Zurich, among others, and was part of the Swisscontact Development Programme, which was co-financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA.