Melvin R. Edwards is a national of St. Kitts and Nevis, son of Cecil (deceased) and Irene (née Rhym er) Edwards, who continues to give of his talent, expertise and energy for the furtherance of people empowerment locally, regionally and internationally.
Educated at the Sandy Point Infant, Irishtown Primary and the St. Kitts-Nevis Grammar Schools, he is a graduate of the University of the West Indies (Cave Hill), the University of Minnesota and the University of Wales (Swansea). As a public servant, he worked in the Ministry of Education, Health and Social Affairs for ten impactful years:
• 1971 — 1973: Graduate Teacher in French and History, Sandy Point High School
• 1973 — 1974′. Youth Officer, St. Kitts and Nevis
• 1974 — 1981: Director of Youth and Community Development.
In this role, he led the strengthening and expansion of youth clubs, sports clubs, community organisations and community self-help projects throughout St. Kitts and Nevis and promoted the enabling climate for a renaissance of the literary, theatrical, folklore and performing arts, as cornerstones of the soon-to-be independent nation. The Youth and Community Development Department (YCDD) became the hub and secretariat of the National Carnival Committee (NCC) under his lead as Executive Director (1975 – 1981). He headed the St. Kitts and Nevis delegations to the Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA) in Cuba (1979) and Barbados (1981). An avid writer and drummer, he is afounding member of the Okolo Tegremantine Arts Theatre, St. Kitts (1973).In pursuit of his professional interest in expanding employment opportunities and the social economy through co-operatives and small enterprises, Mr. Edwards migrated to a regional position as Director of Training and Development with the Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions in Barbados and laid the platform for modernizing this sector during 1981-1985. He returned home in July 1985 for a three-year stint to establish and grow the operations of the Foundation For National Development (FND) Ltd. Its private sector-led programme had provided access to finance, training and technical assistance to over 500 small and micro enterprises on St. Kitts and Nevis and the institution was financially sustainable by 1988, with a branch serving Nevisian entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, he provided voluntary services to the fledgling St. Kitts Co-operative Credit Union, which he and others had co-founded in 1982.
He subsequently held Chief of Party positions for 15 years combined with USAID, CIDA and BearingPoint, managing multi-country private sector and economic competitiveness initiatives in the Caribbean Region:
• Small Enterprise Assistance Project (USAID-CAIC/SEAP, 1988-1992),
• Eastern Caribbean Economic Management Project (CIDA-ECEMP/CO-OPS, 1995-1998), Caribbean HRD Programme for Economic Competitiveness (CIDA/CPEC, 1998-2005).
Public sector ministries and agencies, the business community, NGOs and MSMEs in St. Kitts and Nevis benefited significantly from these donor-funded regional projects.
Representing St. Kitts and Nevis at the regional and international levels for 18 unbroken years from 1991, Edwards was elected President of the Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions (1995-1999) and became the chief architect of and advocate for new harmonized legislation enacted in Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis and the rest of the OECS since the 1990s. He was elevated to the presidency of the World Council of Credit Unions (based in Madison, Wisconsin) in July of 2007 — a first for the Caribbean
Mr. Edwards is a director of the TDC Group of Companies (since 2007), the largest firm on St. Kitts and Nevis and chairs its Audit Committee. During the past decade, he has been consulting for the InterAmerican Institute for Co-operation in Agriculture (IICA), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), European Union, Commonwealth Secretariat, World Bank, Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), Caribbean Development Bank, International Labour Organization (ILO) and other international development agencies in response to the needs of governmental, business and non-state actors. He engineered the conversion of the FND – after 25 years of service to micro and small enterprises as an NGO – into a registered credit union (2009-2010) and providing a wider range of financial products and services to entrepreneurs, workers and consumers alike. He has authored numerous published articles and papers and produced technical manuals on MSMEs, microfinance, credit unions and business associations.
In May 2010, he founded the Caribbean Development Education (CaribDE) programme in order to increase activism, youth participation and leadership succession in all echelons of the region’s credit union eco-system by raising the bar of knowledge, skills, exposure and passion required to competently address today’s developmental and managerial issues. CaribDE implements a 5-day immersion course in Leadership Development and Change Management for directors, managers, regulators and staff. To date, 33 leaders of the Federation’s credit unions have earned the “Development Educators” designation. The 27 courses have produced 851 graduates from 23 countries (including The Philippines, Kenya, USA, Canada, Haiti and Curacao); 26 of the 60 mentors and facilitators have also been certified as International Credit Union Development Educators (I-CUDEs) by the World Council.
The Melvin Edwards Excellence Award was created by the St. Kitts Co-operative Credit Union (SKCCU) in 2012 – the United Nations Year of Co-operatives. It promotes academic excellence by providing monetary and other incentives to primary school students that achieved the highest Test of Standards scores.
Mr. Edwards has been recognized for his outstanding contributions throughout the Caribbean Region and internationally to enable and empower families and communities of low and average means to access affordable finance and to gain ownership of democratically controlled financial institutions.
• He has been honored by the Eastern Caribbean Organisation of Development Foundations
(ECODEF), Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions (CCCU), CUNA Caribbean Insurance Society, the Jamaica Co-operative Credit Union League and the St. Kitts and Nevis Co-operative Credit Union League.
• In 2013 he received the Distinguished Services Award (DSA) from the World Council of Credit Unions for his lifetime of services to financial and other co-operatives worldwide.
• In 2014, in recognition of his exemplary work in development education, the United States Development Education (USDE) Program presented Mr. Edwards with its Individual Achievement Award.
• On February 28, 2017 he achieved the singular distinction as the first living person of Caribbean ancestry to be inducted into the ‘African-Americans in Credit Unions Hall of Fame’ by the Africa n-American Credit Union Coalition, USA.
Edwards is the former president (1995-1999) and director (1991-2009) of the Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions (CCCU), and from 2007-09 served as chairman of the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), completing nine years on the WOCCU board.
During his career Edwards has lobbied government leaders in Europe, Australia, Africa, North, Central and South America, and the Caribbean to implement enabling policies and standards-based legislative frameworks and to improve trade facilitation so that credit unions, co-operatives and small businesses can flourish, the organization said.
In 2009, Edwards earned the Certified Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE) and the International CUDE (I-CUDE) designations, and in 2010 he introduced the Caribbean Development Education (CaribDE) Program to the Caribbean region. CaribDE focuses on empowering the human capital of the sector by raising the bar of knowledge, skills and passion required for tomorrow’s leaders to address developmental and managerial issues with competence. After six years of existence, 24 programs have been held across seven Caribbean countries and 763 persons from 21 countries (including Canada, the USA, Haiti and Kenya) have been certified as Caribbean Development Educators. Since 2013, CaribDE has been partnering with the USDE Program and the African American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC) in supporting the Africa DE program. In June 2017, CaribDE, in partnership with the Canadian Credit Union Association and St. Mary’s University, will be staging the first-ever Canada DE Program in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
In addition, as a Competitiveness Consultant, Edwards has successfully implemented several regional development initiatives on behalf of multilateral organizations including the World Bank, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the European Union and the Inter-American Development Bank. Edwards has held four chief of party positions with international development organizations managing major multi-country, private and public sector economic competitiveness initiatives that have benefited the Caribbean.
In 2013 Edwards received the Distinguished Services Award (DSA) from the World Council for his lifetime of services to financial and other co-operatives worldwide and in 2014, in recognition of his exemplary work in development education, the United States Development Education (USDE) Program presented Edwards with the 2014 Individual Achievement Award. The Melvin Edwards Excellence Award established by the St. Kitts Co-operative Credit Union (SKCCU), has rewarded primary school students in his homeland for excellent test performances over the past seven years and Edwards has made personal donations to support more children with their educational goals, according to the African American Credit Un ion Coalition.