On July 9, 1976, the first rural bank was born at Agona Nyakrom, a farming community in the Central Region. This implies that the sector is 46 years old.
A year after the establishment of Nyakrom Rural Bank, a second rural bank was set up in Briwa, a fishing community also in the Central Region.
After these two rural banks, several others were licensed by the Bank of Ghana. In 1981, there were 30 RCBs and they came together to form the Rural Bankers’ Association which was later renamed Association of Rural Banks.
Now there are 147 licensed rural and community banks with a branch network of over 800 spread across the 16 regions of Ghana
It is important to emphasize that, the rural banking model was conceptualized at a time when access to bank credit for farmers and traders, especially in rural areas was inadequate.
In 2000, the ARB Apex Bank PLC was established as a Mini-Central Bank for the RCBs. Thus, the Bank of Ghana regulates RCBs through the ARB Apex Bank PLC. This makes the RCBs distinct because they enjoy the benefit of dual supervisory and regulatory regime.
In fact, a lot has been achieved by rural and community banks over the years. This feature article chronicles some of the landmark achievements of RCBs.
Let me first commend Dr. Stephen Sarfo Kantanka, the CEO of Atwima Kwanwoma Rural Bank for his sterling record of achievement and character over the years. I really appreciate the efforts made to maintain AKRB as a top tier bank in terms of assets, deposits, investments, profitability and net worth in the rural banking sector.
- Driving Financial Inclusion
According to the World Bank, “financial inclusion is a key enabler to reducing poverty and boosting prosperity”.
Since the inception of the rural banking concept in 1976, RCBs continue to be drivers for financial inclusion among the underserved, unserved and the marginalized segments of the population.
Data from the ARB Apex Bank PLC indicates that the RCBs have over 6.5 million active customers. It has been observed that the total number of customers of the RCBs is more than twice the customers of all the 23 universal banks put together.
It is worth mentioning that, the RCBs take care of the marginalized, micro businesses or individual who is looking for a loan as low as GH₵ 500 whose needs will not be adequately served by the universal banks.
According to the Efficiency Monitoring Unit of the ARB Apex Bank PLC report for March 2021, the RCBs total loan portfolio amounted to GH₵ 1.842 billion while deposit was GH₵ 5.573 billion.
Evidently, the rural and community banks have made a bigger impact on financial inclusion.
- Job Creation
Over the years, RCBs have complemented government job creation efforts through the provision of employment to many young professionals.
Available data indicates that RCBs have provided direct employment to more than 15000 people across the country and the positive multiplier effects in the rural economy is anybody’s guess.
The industry has the potential to create more jobs for the teeming youth to make them productive. The government should therefore support and pay attention to the industry to thrive.
Examine the following RCBs Contribution to Job Creation
|Name of Rural Bank||Number of Staff|
|Ahantaman Rural Bank||350|
|Upper Amenfi Rural Bank||420|
|Amenfiman Rural Bank||485|
|Nyakrom Rural Bank||265|
|Manya Krobo Rural Bank||240|
|Amansie Rural Bank||342|
|Kaaseman Rural Bank||249|
|Fiaseman Rural Bank||356|
|Juaben Rural Bank||249|
|Odotobri Rural Bank||225 excluding mobile bankers|
- Accelerating agricultural growth
Agriculture plays a pivotal role in socio-economic development of Ghana as it contributes to foreign exchange earnings, employment generation, food security among others.
However, most farmers’ especially small holder farmers cannot afford the collateral and complex loan requirements or rigid rules set by the universal banks and consequently denying them of access to funds.
It is refreshing to note that since the inception of the rural banking concept, the sector has been supporting farmers with flexible credit at competitive terms and conditions. This has helped a number of farmers to expand their farmland, boost their yields and improved their income level.
Consider, for example, the following rural banks and their lending support to farmers
|Disbursement Of Farmers’ Loan For 2 Years|
|Name of RCB||Year||Amount||Number Of Beneficiary Farmers|
|Amenfiman Rural Bank||2020||GH₵ 32.7 million||10,368|
|2021||GH₵ 34.4 million||12,500|
|Fiaseman Rural Bank||2020||GH₵ 27.4 million||8,092|
|2021||GH₵ 36.4 million||8,822|
|Kwahu Praso Rural Bank||2020||GH₵ 4.5 million||1,246|
|2021||GH₵ 6.8 million||1,509|
|Upper Amenfi RB||2021||GH₵ 15 million||2,400|
- Support to Community Development
As community based and development-oriented institutions, rural and community banks have made significant contributions to the development of their catchment areas through corporate social responsibility.
Some RCBs are on record for devoting part of their profits every year to support development initiatives such as constructing mechanized and manual boreholes, construction and renovation of schools, scholarship for needy but brilliant students, and cash donations to institutions among others.
Consider the excellent example set by the following RCBs with respect to corporate social responsibility.
Atwima Kwanwoma Rural Bank in the Ashanti Region has constructed a Senior High School (Atwima Kwanwoma Presby Senior High) for Pakyi Number 2 community.
The bank makes a cash donation every year to support the school.
In addition to the cash donation, it has been supporting the school with study materials and other logistics. It is heartwarming to say that school enrolment in the community has increased.
In fact, Atwima Kwanwoma Rural Bank has done so much in terms of CSR initiatives but space might not allow me to list all of them.
The Board and Management of Amenfiman Rural Bank know that the bank is owned and belong to the community, hence their commitment to the development in the communities within their catchment areas. They also believe in the concept of double bottom-line which emphasize both profit generation and positive social impact.
Amenfiman CSR initiatives
|PROJECT/DONATION||BENEFICIARY COMMUNITIES/INSTITUTIONS||AMOUNT GH₵|
|14 mechanized and manual boreholes||Wasa Akropong, Asankrangwa, Abesewa and Seven Others||443,000.00|
|Provision of stores and laundry premise||Wasa Akropong Government Hospital||140,000.00|
|Dadieso CHPS Compound||Wassa Dadieso||37,000.00|
|Donation of 14-seater toilet facility||Asankrangwa Senior High School||100,000.00|
|Renovation of Methodist and Adansi School||Wasa Akropong||58,000.00|
|Sponsorship Package||FC Samartex 1996||100,000.00|
Mumuadu Rural Bank in the Eastern Region with its head office at Osino is also committed to supporting community development.
According to the General Manager, Mr. Benedict Agabeh, the bank is owned and belongs to the community and hence the need to give back to communities in terms of CSR initiatives. Consider the following interventions by the bank.
- The bank renovated Osino police station.
- The Bank constructed a temporary pavilion to replace a dilapidated classroom block for Osino Presby Junior High School.
- The maternity wing of the Osino clinic was renovated by the bank and also donated a microscope and mechanized borehole to the clinic.
Upper Amenfi Rural Bank is also a force to reckon with when it comes to CSR interventions. The bank has done so much to communities in its operational areas. The latest one is construction of a modern community centre for the people of Subin in the Upper Denkyira West. According to the CEO, Mr. Ignatius Appiah Otwey, the project is at the completion stage.
Odotobri Rural Bank has a solid record of immense support to the communities within which it operates. These range from offer of scholarship, donation to government institutions in the area of health, education and agric. Notable and significant among these is the construction of a Science resource center at Jacobu Senior High School and Technical School, JASTECH and a community center at Jacobu in the Ashanti Region.
- Supporting MSMEs
Micro, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (MSMEs) play a pivotal role in Ghana as they contribute to job creation and revenue generation to the government and drives economic growth.
Available data indicates that, MSMEs represent 85% of Ghana’s private sector and contribute about 70% of annual GDP.
According to the World Bank and the Africa Development Bank (AFDB) access to finance is a key constraint to MSMEs growth in developing countries including Ghana.
It is gratifying to say that over the years RCBs have been supporting the MSMEs through flexible credit to spur their growth. This is because they believe that local economies in their operational areas revolve around MSMEs.
The RCBs sectorial distribution of credit as of December, 2020, revealed that out of the total loan portfolio of GH₵ 1.8 billion, 37.89% went to support MSMEs.
In the first ten (10) months of this year, new loans granted by Amenfiman Rural Bank to customers amounted to GH₵ 182 million. The greater percentage of the loan was extended to the MSMEs sector.
According to the Head of Credit, Mr. Patrick Darkwa, the huge credit extension was meant to drive rapid economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic in the bank catchment areas.
This is a clear manifestation that RCBs in the country are doing their possible best to drive the growth of MSMEs.
Aside from funding, some RCBs have been providing entrepreneurial and business advisory support as well as other technical support to build the capacity of MSME clients.
- Supporting Government Flagship programmes
Successive governments have implemented certain flagship programmes to achieve certain key objectives.
Rural Banks have been lending their support to some of the government initiatives/flagship programmes. Consider the following;
- Supported the government in the implementation of Akuafo cheque operation in cocoa growing areas in 1982. The policy back then mandated that cheque should be issued in settlement of cocoa beans purchased from cocoa farmers.
- Supported the coronavirus Alleviation programme business support scheme.
In collaboration with the Ghana Enterprises Agency, 70 RCBs were selected to disburse GH₵ 26.5 million of the CAPBUSS to over 9000 beneficiaries (source: the Rural Banker Magazine, issue 14, page 25)
- Backing the Government 1D1F flagship programme.
For instance, Amenfiman Rural Bank in the Western Region has partnered a local company to establish a commercial starch factory at Wassa Asikuma under the government 1D1F with the potential to provide jobs to over 100 people in the community (source: 2020 ANNUAL REPORT of Amenfiman Rural Bank, Page 4)
From the foregoing discussion, I can state unequivocally that, the rural banking sector has made significant and remarkable impact on rural financial inclusion and development.
Going forward, the government must support the RCBs to ensure vibrant financial sector capable of supporting and accelerating rural economic growth and development as well as the MSMEs.