Citing the snapshot of the Prudential Reports over the past three years shows that Ghana Cooperative Susu Collectors Association (GCSCA), total client deposits mobilised and total client withdrawals paid have grown significantly over the past three years. These figures clearly shows that the future of this susu business in the informal sector is encouraging and the opportunities in it are quite enormous and huge, considering the unbanked that are excluded from access to financial services.
The membership of the Ghana Cooperative Susu Collectors’ Association for the year 2020 stood at 548, with total susu Clients of well over 554,000 and total client deposits mobilised approximately GH¢390 million compared to total membership of 661 with susu client membership of 535,479 and total clients’ deposits mobilized approximately GH¢372 million in 2019.
According to the 2020 GCSCA report, the declined of membership by 182 Susu operators was as a result of funds locked with the collapsed Fund Management Companies and the emergence of Covid-19 pandemic. While commending the Association and its members for their performance during the year under review, the decline of susu businesses calls for re-evaluating investment placement policies and adoption of intensive drive for more susu businesses and deposits.
Let me first explain what is a Sustainable Susu business in the context of this meeting before speaking on the Topic ‘Creating Sustainable Susu Business Operations in The Context of Emerging Markets Trend in Ghana’.
A Sustainable Susu business can be defined as a business that creates, delivers, and captures value for all stakeholders without depleting the natural, economic and social capital it relies on”. Sustainable business model creates customer and social value by integrating social, environmental, and business activities (Bocken et al, 2013). Sustainable susu businesses seek to go beyond delivering economic value but include a consideration of other forms of value for a broader range of stakeholders such as GCSCA, customers and potential customers, susu collectors; Bank of Ghana and entire population. Sustainable business can be understood as business which achieves economic viability (i.e. profitability and competitiveness) while operating within the capacity, or contributing to the integrity, of social, economic, and ecological environment.
What are the drivers for sustainable susu business in emerging market?
(1) Government, through Bank of Ghana, has created enabling regulatory framework in financial services sector; (2) the need for comprehensive and unique biometric identification numbers for entire Ghanaian population; (3)urgent need for comprehensive property address and street naming systems nationwide; (4) creating quality financial literary education programmes; (5) adopting digitization as a competitive tool; (6) GCSCA need to do internal restructuring and reengineering process; (7) plead with both partners like oxford policy management UK; Mastercard Foundation, GIZ GH and other stakeholders like ministry of finance , Bank of Ghana and Ghana Bankers Association to support in technological infrastructure development and digitization project.
- As part of policy direction, governments over past decade, through Bank of Ghana has created enabling framework for financial inclusion which would support the sustainability of susu operations in Ghana
Government has enacted various laws over the past decade that has created enabling financial sector environment for Sustainability of Susu business such as: Banking Act 2004 Act 673 and Banking Amendment Act 2007; BSDI Act 2016 Act 2016; Non-Bank Financial Institutions Act 2008 Act 774; Payment Systems and Services Act 2019 Act 987 and others. These laws have enabled Bank of Ghana to place a high priority on banking the unbanked through the facilitation of a common platform and technology for Banks and other Non-Bank Financial Institutions to allow access to financial services by the unbanked in the context of overall payment system reforms (Bawumia, 2010).
In this vein, in July 2011, Bank of Ghana issued guidelines and rules for Susu Collectors whether or not previously registered with the Ghana Cooperative Susu Collectors Association (GCSCA) under TIER 4 covering Business form; Capital; Permissible Activities; Branch Expansion and Prudential Reporting. As recent as February 2021, Bank of Ghana issued a new directive covering Crowd Funding which placed a high priority on the unbanked through the facilitation of Crowd Funding Policy Directive, technology platforms and other non-bank financial institutions like Credit Unions and Ghana Cooperative Susu Collectors Association to allow access to financial services by the unbanked in the context of overall payment system reforms.
The Bank of Ghana aimed at digitising the Susu System through its Crowd Funding Policy. The above laws and Bank of Ghana’s guidelines and directives since 2011 had created enabling financial sector environment to create financial inclusion for the unbanked in the informal economy. I would urge the Bank of Ghana to make it mandatory for all Susu collectors to be part of the GCSCA to help sanitize the Susu business environment.
- As part of institutional infrastructural reforms to support sustainable susu operation business in Ghana there is a need for comprehensive unique national identification card system for entire population like UK National Insurance Number (UK NIM) and USA Social Security Number
The Unique Identification Numbers for the entire Ghanaian population would enable both the Banks and Non-Bank Financial Institutions easily deal with the populace as well as accessible for background checks. This means of doing business in Ghana will be easier. With a unique identification numbers for will easier to track and locate individuals who defraud customers as well tracing defaulters who had taken loans and other credit facilities.
It is however important to have a Unique biometric Identification number that cannot be cloned or faked and also can easily be authenticated and verified offline as well as online. This Unique Identification numbers will provide hope for the stakeholders or actors in the financial system including the Susu Business. A roll out of a bio-metric ID system in Ghana would thus as an accelerator for digital payments as it would not only allow financial services providers a Unified approach to Know Your Customer (KYC) and authentication of transactions but could also enable other digital payment innovations to leverage the digital ID such as remote or e-KYC for non-to-face account activation by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs).
- Government must ensure that all municipals, districts and local councils have adequate facilities put in place to ensure uniformed property and street naming systems countrywide to make susu business sustainable and improve the financial inclusion
The Government must ensure that after the bio metric Unique Identification Numbers for the population, the property address systems with streets and road naming must be done within short space of time. The Municipal, District, Local and Community councils must ensure that the property addressing and streets and road naming systems are duly completed. These systems will go a long way to support the tracking and tracing of businesses and residents.
To create sustainable susu operations in the Ghanaian financial space, the importance of s system of property addresses is probably one of the most underestimated requirements for the development of an economy and its informal sector. It is very imperative that countries like Ghana put up in place a comprehensive address system nation- wide as a matter of priority. This will help institutions to track and trace individuals and businesses easily.
The absence of a proper address system had increased the risk premium attached credit facilities that have also resulted facilities default both in formal and informal financial sectors in the country. The availability of GPS technology and Google maps today, together with experiences of cities like Lagos Nigeria, London, UK and New York, USA, should make the task much easier for a country like Ghana (Bawumia, 2010).
my experience as Bank Loan Recovery Officer with SSB Tudu Branch in 1985 is an example of the need for adequate and uniformed property address system. Trying to locate loan defaulting customers ended me at Lavender Hill where human excreta were being discharged.
- Urgent need for quality financial literacy education is crucial for susu business sustainability in Ghana
Quality financial literacy education is key in reducing gender inequality, and entrepreneurs can leverage their technology expertise to reshape the susu business sector in a post-pandemic Ghana. Financial literacy education is of utmost importance in order for any person or group of persons to be financial literate successful; hence the Ministry of Finance, Bank of Ghana, Banks and Special Deposit Taking Institutions including Ghana Cooperative Susu Collectors Association should promote financial literacy education.
According to World Bank report (2019), financial service across regions and demographics was still low, particularly among women, the poor, and rural citizens. For example, in 2017, 54% of women had an account with formal financial institutions compared to 58% for the general population and 62% of men.
Considering high financial illiteracy among the Ghanaian populace, GCSCA should donor support for the yearly financial literacy programs. GCSCA must partner with other stakeholders to improve financial capability through financial literacy programmes to equip its customers and potential customers with the information needed to identify the benefits of the Susu businesses in Ghana.
- Powering fintech solutions for a mobile-first market could make the Susu business sustainable in post Covid-19 pandemic period
Today, at least 40% of the Ghanaian population is still unbanked. According to World Bank report (2019) on enhancing financial inclusion, the fourth economic update for the country, notes that the financial sector has grown rapidly since 2010, increasing access to formal financial services. However, the report points out that financial access across regions and demographics is still low, particularly among women, poor and rural citizens.
For example, in 2017, 54% of women had an account with a formal financial institution, compared to 58% for the general population and 62% of men. Entrepreneurs can help advance financial inclusion by taking advantage of the growing smartphone penetration rate. According to Telecommunication companies in Ghana, smartphone penetration will reach 80 percent by 2023. This smartphone revolution opens the door to unique mobile financial services and business models such as Susu business, mobile money, micro-insurance and micro-finance.
With a mobile-first mindset, fintech entrepreneurs and innovative financial institutions can build user-centric services that reach far more people than traditional financial institutions. GCSCA to remain relevant and sustainable in the current financial space it should embrace digital technology that will provide a platform to share knowledge with clients or customers and develop a sound and stable Susu operations which has long term benefits of lowering cost of funds and grow the saving base. Poor financial literacy is evident in poor records keeping among market women, artisans and others. There is also lack of basic accounting skills and deficient savings habits.
Recent challenges in the financial services sector where customers or clients have been victims of fraud, can be traced to poor financial awareness on the part of the victims. Digitisation presents the opportunity to promote the financial literacy and as we progress in this digitisation era, it is imperative to bridge the financial knowledge gap of the unbanked and underbanked, which is plaguing the effective use of digital financial services. This is important because when people make informed decisions about personal finances, we can reduce the risk of fraud and also empower individuals to establish long term healthy financial habits thus leading to greater financial security, reduction of poverty and economic growth.
Digitilization as a competitive and sustainable tool in the emerging market trend
Digitization in Ghana has evolved at a very fast pace in the past ten years especially with respect to the payment ecosystem. Ghana’s payment system has been predominantly cash- based, however, the recent growth of Information and Communication Technology and Mobile Phone Penetration has led to increased payment transactions in the rural and villages and mobile money transactions growth. Going digital enables Banks and Non-Bank Financial Institutions including Susu companies to gain a competitive presence, expand quickly, capture a greater market share and also improve on processes and timeline.
Digital innovation presents numerous opportunities to the financial sector such as improving service delivery, product choice, convenience, competitive timelines and price in the Susu business operations. Digital financial services provide opportunities to drive the financial inclusion and also lower cost of savings mobilization. Products like mobile money would create avenues to reach a large portion of the unbanked within different demographics as well as gender. Bringing the financially excluded into the financial sector has huge potential to spur low-cost savings mobilisation and significantly lower cost of funds with a high potential of promoting business set up through affordable credit.
Ghana Cooperative Susu Collectors’ Association Creates a sustainable Susu operations in the country by doing regular background checks on both the existing and potential susu collectors with Ghana Police Service
In the face of fraud, embezzlement and cash suppression in the Susu business, the Association’s continuous screening of susu collectors by the Police Service could be one of fraud risk mitigants. Continuous screening of susu collectors would reduce the likelihood of people with a history of fraudulent behaviour playing a role within the susu business.
Background checks will enable the Police to verify a person’s criminal records, education, employment history, and other past activities. A criminal background check in the financial space is required where a person or organisation needs to know about major criminal activity including fraud, embezzlement, or felony convictions before making a decision regarding employment in the both formal and informal financial sectors. National Criminal Database is required. This regular background check on Susu collectors could be done yearly or bi-yearly.
In addition, GCSCA should offer a yearly comprehensive fraud awareness and prevention programs to sensitize customers, Susu collectors and other agents on fraud trends and prevention measures. These can include group training and media campaign in the local dialect
Cash insurance or cash in-transit insurance with reputable insurance companies for susu collectors as practised in Benin
GCSCA should partner any of the reputable insurance companies to insure the Susu collectors to mitigate against risk of carrying cash. To mitigate this, GCSCA ‘s Susu collectors are to be covered by a multi-risk insurance for up to certain limit per agent. For example, In Benin Cooperative pour la Promotion De L’ Epargne et Du Credit the equivalent GCSCA Susu Collectors are covered by a Multi-Risk Insurance Contract for to US$ 100.00 per agent. If an agent collects more US$ 100.00, she or he must deposit the money in A CPEC Branch account.
The amount collected is tracked and monitored through the Mobile Application and client or customer receive a receipt and an instant SMS Alert. For the Susu operations be more sustainable, we recommend the Multi-Risk Insurance Policy as long practiced by the Sister Company CPDEDC in Benin in these days of emerging day time robberies and financial crimes such as embezzlement, fraud and cash suppression.
Appeal to the partners and other stakeholders such as Ministry of Finance and Bank of Ghana to support GCSCA
My humble appeal to the Ministry of Finance and Bank of Ghana to make conscious effort to support the partners in the provision of technological infrastructural development for GCSCA to make the Association sustainable and relevant in the informal sector of the economy. To make the Susu business in Ghana sustainable and competitive, we plead with these reputable organisations to support GCSCA in the areas of Clouding projects as well as their financial literacy programmes.
This partnership, thus, aims at equipping GCSCA the apex body of Susu operators and members with the Technological infrastructure to make facilitation of a common platform and technology that allow access to financial services to the unbanked as well as digitalize the operations. This is said to create a sustainable framework that link up digital platform providers with Susu operators. Furthermore, as a result of this partnership, Susu operators’ Bio data and other documentation are now stored and archived in Solar powered Secured Servers, while Susu Collectors on the daily routines are able to use Information Communication Technology to record their Daily transactions thus create clear transparency and improve the customers’ trust and confidence in Susu business sector.
With a good management information system, all customers’ data is accessible anytime, while the reconciliation of a customer’s account is instant thereby avoiding trust issues. With support of computers and laptops from GIZ for the clouding system of storing data, the GCSCA will be able to link the Regional and Urban centres to create membership portals which facilitate easier Prudential reports for Bank of Ghana and other stakeholders. This will go a long way to ensure financial sustainability of the GCSCA. We plead with the OPM, Mastercard Foundation and GIZ and other stakeholders to support GCSCA to complete the technological infrastructural development.
Government, Ministry of Finance, Bank of Ghana, Banks and NBFIs including GCSCA would have to put these systems, policies and institutional reforms as a matter of priority and urgency to support the effectiveness of financial sector development as well as the wider goal of economic development, reduction in poverty and creation of jobs.
In the presence of such financial exclusion and illiteracy, there is an important role for the state to work with private sector to put in place some of these efficient rules or norms such as robust Unique National Identification System and Proper Housing Address System that underpin any modern financial system to allow for efficient functioning of private sector and the financial sector within a market economy (Bawumia, 2010).
This article was also delivered as a speech at the 13th AGM of the Ghana Cooperative Susu Collectors Association (GCSCA)