Guest post by Tony Fosu, Sinapi Aba
Although the MicroLead project is still in process, the team has been constantly assessing its impact through external studies and conversations with partners. Sinapi Aba is a savings and loan institution based in Ghana and a MicroLead partner. We asked Sinapi Aba CEO, Tony Fosu, about working with MicroLead. Here’s what he had to say:
The past couple of years have been very rough for Ghana. The local currency hasn’t performed well, and Ghana faced an energy crisis. As a result, economic performance has been terrible. These challenges directly affected us, as they were immediately felt by our clients – microenterprises and microentrepreneurs.
But we were amazed that within this same period, when many banks and MFIs were having so many challenges, we grew our savings deposits. With MicroLead support and technology, clients were able to make deposits, and that is why our deposit portfolio has increased. In spite of the difficult economy, many of our clients have been able to save. But without MicroLead, we wouldn’t have opened new channels so clients could save minimal amounts – exactly what our clients needed during these challenging times. Through our new POS devices, deposit products, and programs like the Susu product, we’ve mobilized additional deposits and now have more funds to disburse credit. So MicroLead has had a multifaceted impact on our institution and on our clients.
Adding to the impact is the agency banking we’ve just commenced. Initially, we were skeptical and a little nervous about agency banking. All we knew about agency banking was how difficult it could be. However, through the MicroLead program, we were able to participate in an exposure visit to another MicroLead partner, a bank in Malawi, and experience firsthand what they had accomplished. With that knowledge, we were better equipped to roll out agency banking. This has opened up even more channels for deposit mobilization and made it easier for customers to make deposits. In turn, agency banking is an excellent tool for poverty reduction, because it keeps clients financially secure, building their capital for unforeseen contingencies.
Because of what we’ve learned through MicroLead, we’re positioning ourselves to grow in the area of mobile money and mobile services for our clients. For us this means a lot, because Sinapi Aba is one of the few institutions in Ghana that is so geographically spread out, with 47 branches. When we were a non-deposit taking organization, we traveled a one to two-hour radius from our branches to reach clients. This increased our cost of operations. Thanks to MicroLead, we’ve adapted technology to lower our operating costs and operate more efficiently. MicroLead has exposed us to technological enhancements and helped us understand how technology increases efficiency in our services delivery.
MicroLead is a UNCDF-managed global initiative challenging regulated FSPs to develop and roll-out deposit services which respond to the rural vacuum of services. With the generous support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The MasterCard Foundation and the LIFT Fund in Myanmar, MicroLead works with a variety of FSPs and technical service providers to reach rural markets, particularly women, with demand-driven, responsibly priced products offered via alternative delivery channels such as rural agents, mobile phones, roving agents, point of sales devices and group linkages. This is combined with financial education, so customers not only have access but can effectively use quality services.