At the heart of social and economic development are effective institutions. In developed market economies, institutions, both public and private, effect all our daily lives from water supply to banking. In developing countries such as Ghana none of this can be taken for granted. Once you travel away from Accra and the major towns, as I did in a few weeks ago in February, public infrastructure is poor – roads, schools and public health facilities are decrepit or absent and access to finance can be difficult. Only 50% of rural adults in Ghana have a formal savings or loan account.
Yet over the past ten years there have been dramatic improvements in the reach of financial services institutions in Ghana with a doubling in rural access to financial services. Good quality institutional development by Opportunity International partners has played a significant part in this: Opportunity International Savings and Loans (OISL) and Sinapi Aba Savings and Loans (SASL) cover rural communities across Ghana providing between them services to over 900,000 savers and nearly 200,000 borrowers. In 2019 they both came successfully through detailed review and scrutiny by the Central Bank of Ghana in a process that led to the closure of many other financial institutions across the country. Their mission to balance social outcomes alongside a robust, well governed and regulated, financially viable institution is having a big impact that is valued by the government.
Staff from Opportunity International Savings and Loan (OISL)
SASL and OISL are led by highly skilled management teams from Kumasi and Accra with branch, loan staff and agents alongside technical experts. I saw the positive impact of their work in providing loans, financial training and support to cocoa farmers, farmers, school proprietors, water supply and sanitation businesses and traders. Clients spoke of the personal service and trusting relationship they had with SASL and OISL.
These partners are crucial to Opportunity serving the needs of the poor, growing businesses and creating jobs. Much has been achieved but by continuing to support our robust partners we can go further to address the financial needs of the poor and most marginal people. People like the Kayayei – head porters – in Accra, Ghana’s capital city. With support in financial training and loans, these young people, predominantly women, are changing their lives and building a better future.