Putting smiles on faces - microfinance shows the way

Madam Ama Osaa is one of the thousands of women who benefitted from a microfinance scheme that targets the productive poor implemented by Odotobri Rural Bank with support from UNDP. Photo Credit: Bossman Owusu

Today, Madam Ama Osaa, a single parent and mother of 4, wears broad smiles on her face as she looks intently into the future with hope for her palm kernel oil business. 

“It has made a big difference in my life”, says Ama, as she carefully separates desirable palm nuts from the rest and gets them ready for shelling, frying, grinding (milling), skimming and packaging – a routine she repeats every week to produce the oil, which her clients use for cooking and soap making, among others.  

Highlights

  • More than 8,000 persons benefitted from UNDP/USAID/GOG support valued at US$ 1.5 million, which targeted microfinance institutions as a tool for poverty reduction efforts.
  • ORB, a beneficiary of the support, recorded a growth of more than 800 %, making it possible for the bank to provide microfinance grants to the productive poor which have improved their incomes and empowered them to engage in mainstream economic activities.
  • The support boosts the direct attainment of SDGs goals 1 and 8 in keeping with the Government of Ghana’s target of achieving full and productive employment, and decent work, for all women and men by 2030.
  • The clients of the bank, their families and dependents now have access to basic needs such as food, clothes, shelter and are witnessing rapid improvements in their quality of life.

Ama is one of more than 8,100 productive poor who received microfinance support from Odotobri Rural Bank (ORB), located in Ghana’s Amansie Central District, to either start a small-scale business or boost an existing one.  

The support was borne out of a collaboration between UNDP, USAID and the Government of Ghana, which sought to place the private sector in the centre of wealth creation and poverty reduction efforts among rural folks, by leveraging microfinance as a key development tool. 

Under the partnership, Odotobri Rural Bank was selected among other financial institutions to receive technical and institutional capacity support through staff training, provision of information technology infrastructure, study tours, capital grant and business development support services. This has resulted in an improvement of the entrepreneurial competences of the bank.  

“Three years after receiving the support, Odotobri recorded a growth of more than 800 %, with the total clientele rising from 3, 375 to 30,991”, says Baba Siaka Ahmed, Chief Executive Officer of ORB.  This increased the bank’s capacity to provide grant support to the productive poor in the catchment area whose economic activities have mainly included farming, trading, small scale mining, cottage industry, handicraft, food processing, transport as well as small and micro enterprise operations. 

“I first took a loan of GH¢ 500 (equivalent of US$ 140) to grow my business. When I completed the repayment two weeks later, I requested for GH¢1,000 and subsequently, GH¢2,000, which was granted by the bank because of my good repayment record and the progress I was making in my business”, says Ama.  

Today, Ama owns a mill that helps her to process palm kernel expeditiously. She has employed five more hands to assist her meet the increasing demand for her palm kernel oil.  With this, she takes care of her children’s education and provides for their material needs. 

The joint UNDP/ USAID/Government of Ghana support to ORB helped the bank to do business with the productive poor in its catchment area. With this intervention, microfinance has become the bank’s second most-patronized product, with it alone serving more than 20,000 clients, including women constituting almost 80 %. This has won the bank several awards both nationally and internationally.  

The microfinance opportunities provided by the bank to its clients have not only improved their incomes, but also empowered them to engage in mainstream economic activities to address their human development needs. The clients and their dependents can now have access to basic necessities such as food, clothes, shelter, health and education and are witnessing rapid improvements in their socio-economic wellbeing and quality of life. 

These efforts are in harmony with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8, which aims to encourage sustained economic growth by achieving full and productive employment, and decent work, for all women and men by 2030. 

One of the targets under the goal also seeks to strengthen the capacity of domestic financial institutions to encourage and expand access to banking, insurance and financial services for all. 

It is anticipated that beneficiaries of the more than US$ 1.5 million joint support, which also targeted other financial institutions, will sustain progress made as Ghana works toward achieving the SDGs by 2030. 

“For me, it has been a lifeline. It has really wiped away my tears and put smiles on my face”, says Ama.