‘We need to be helping our own,’ says Chairman of Pan African Credit Union

By Lincoln DePradine

Ivor Christopher

The chairman of the Pan-African Credit Union (PACU), which now is in its formative stage, is appealing  for  support from African-Canadians when the Black-owned financial institution is “up and running. ”

“We want you to move your money and put it into the credit union,’’ the Trinidad-born PACU chairman Ivor Christopher said  last week  at a panel discussion of the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce (CBCC). “We need to be helping our own and supporting our own.’’

The discussion, titled “The Black Renaissance: Rebirth, Resurgence, Revitalization,’’ was part of the CBCC’s commemoration of “Canadian Black Business Week’’.

“We are now at a renaissance and the key thing is, we want to encourage Black entrepreneurship all across the board,’’ CBCC founder and chairman, Michael Forrest, said in welcoming remarks. “The renaissance is real.’’

Forrest and the CBCC membership have promised to find ways to “build bridges’’ and to engage in trade missions with the world’s 1.5 billion Black people, including those living in the United States, as well as in other places such as Mexico and Africa.

Panelists  noted systemic barriers faced by Black entrepreneurs seeking bank loans, and discussed the emerging “Black renaissance’’ in business and how to grow, protect and maintain financial and economic prosperity in the Black community.

Muna Mohammed, who is in the food and beverage business, reiterated that “access to funding is a big problem. I definitely think that having access to capital is crucial’’.

Christopher, a chartered professional accountant, said the PACU  will soon will be embarking on a campaign to raise funds towards acquiring its credit union licence and the launching of th

“As a credit union, we want to help navigate those barriers and make it easier to get access to capital,’’ Christopher said.

“If you can support us, in terms of investing, that will be great. There’s also going to be opportunities for donations and, most critically, when we do open our doors, we want overwhelming support,’’ he added, promising that the credit union will meet the need of Black businesses to access capital to “flourish and grow’’.

Christopher wants to see an expansion of Black business ownership into areas such as operating pharmacies and gas stations.

“As a Black person, when have you gone to a pharmacy and the person behind the counter looks like you? When have you been to a convenience store and the person across the counter looks like you?’ Christopher asked during the panel discussion.

Among other panelists were Dahabo Ahmed-Omer and Patricia Deguire of the BlackNorth Initiative, whose objectives include engaging businesses in Canada’s corporate sector to having them address social justice issues.

“We are now literally in the biggest civil rights movements that we have ever seen,’’ said Ahmed-Omer. “Where we are right now in 2020, we have never been ever before.’’

Deguire emphasized the importance of succession planning, mentoring of youth and of “intentionally’’ passing on the legacy of success in the Black community.

“I would say one of the key aspects of maintaining what we have is through succession planning and we have to begin with the youth,’’ she said. “We also have to make sure that we are placed strategically and intentionally in every institution, so that we are represented.’’

The PACU says that in addition to offering “an alternate banking option that better serves the Black community’’, it also will provide “financial education on topics from budgeting to wealth-building’’.

“Once we build up financial literacy and people learn how money works, it would only be better for our community and help raise the bar at all levels economically,’’ said Christopher.

“Right now, the Black community is becoming more aware of their economic power and is looking for ways to increase that and solidify that. There is an awakening right now, but we still have a ways to go.’’

Panel discussion moderator Doug Minter, the CBCC’s management consultant, relocated from the United States to Canada in February. “This place has so much human capital, so much talent, so much diversity,’’ Minter said, commenting on Canada.