Ghana: What lies ahead

Representatives from REST Ethiopia lead a group discussion with a graduation program participant during the Innovations in Social Protection and Livelihoods Development program in 2014.

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>>Authored by Paul Gostomski, Microcredit Summit Campaign Program Intern

The Microcredit Summit Campaign recently spoke with Mawutor Ablo, director of Social Protection at Ghana’s Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, and also a participant in the Campaign’s Field Learning Program last year, Innovations in Social Protection and Livelihoods Development.

The program invited representatives from Ghana, Malawi, and Mozambique on a trip to observe leading social protection programs in Ethiopia and Mexico. In our discussion with Mr. Mawutor, we spoke about the changes made to Ghana’s social protection programs since we last met and what changes may be made in the future to increase the reach of the programs and strengthen outcomes for Ghana’s poorest.

The Ghana National Household Registry

In May 2014, the World Bank continued its support to Ghana through a credit of US$50 million to Ghana’s Finance Ministry with payments dispersed annually from 2015 to 2017.

The funds are directed to the Ghana Social Opportunities Project, which aims to extend Ghana’s Labor-Intensive Public Works (LIPW) program from 49 to 60 of Ghana’s 216 districts. LIPW also aims to expand the reach of grants from 100,000 to 150,000 poor households through the Livelihood Empowerment against Poverty (LEAP) program.

In addition, the social protection systems will be strengthened through improved targeting and the establishment of the Ghana National Household Registry (GNHR).

Ato Berhanu Woldemichael in a meeting

Mr. Ato Berhanu Woldemichael, as acting State Minister with the Food Security Directorate, oversees much of the government’s role in LEAP and LIPW.

Before the implementation of the household registry system, both LIPW and LEAP screened candidate households in selected districts independently. This has not caused an overlap yet, but with the extension of the Ghana Social Opportunities Project and its intended scaling up of both programs, overlap is inevitable, leading to possible disbursement conflicts between the two programs.

The GNHR will create a database that optimizes methods used in finding and selecting program candidates through a universal survey useful for multiple social protection programs in selecting participating households. Simply put, the GNHR and its universal survey will represent a more efficient and comprehensive method for selecting households for inclusion in the national social protection programs.

Mr. Mawutor expects the registry to improve the ability to target and reach the poorest in Ghana. He compared the registry to that of the successful Cadastro Unico, the national registry of Brazil established in 2001. Three years after Cadastro Unico was created, a study showed that the poorest quartile of the population received 80 percent of all social protection programs’ benefits.

By way of comparison, the cash transfer programs in place prior to the unified registry together distributed only 64 percent of the total benefits to the poorest quartile. This improvement in targeting is something Mr. Mawutor hopes to see take place in GNHR by reducing what he termed inclusion error — the participation of households living above the targeted poverty level — in programs like LEAP and LIPW.

The Move to Mobile Money

Leaders in charge of implementing Ghana’s social protection programs are interested in finding the most efficient way to distribute the cash transfers that are at the center of these initiatives. Currently, the most common method of disbursement is through smart cards. Here, recipients of a cash transfer can go to the post office or another government entity with their smart card to have their payment added to their smart card.

Ghana would like to move from this strategy because of the high transaction costs associated with it. Also, this method does not allow recipients to transfer the money they receive to, for example, a family member in need. Instead, Ghana would like mobile money to be the primary form of receiving cash transfers.

Ghana has already partnered with MTN, a mobile network operator from South Africa, and has thus far reached a point where about 10 percent of its payments are disbursed through mobile systems.

Hoping to expand this number, Mr. Mawutor told us that Ghana would be increasing its total number of providers to four companies this year. With the expansion, Mr. Mawutor hopes to make mobile banking more accessible to poorer areas by increasing the overall number of local branches across the country.

The addition of three new operators would also produce significant returns from the added competition to the market, producing incentives for each company to provide the best service.

Mr. Mawutor Ablo during the Innovations in Social Protection, along with the Hon. Dela Sowa, Deputy Minister of Gender, Children, and Social Protection. Together they have great responsibility for the social protection programing in Ghana.

Growth by Efficiency

Social protection programs in Ghana have made many changes in the past few years and they all seem to focus on efficiency. Both the establishment of the Ghana National Household Registry and the move to mobile money aim to cut the costs associated with these programs. The registry intends to better target those among the poorest in Ghana for participation in the social protection program and reduce the costs to serve them by removing redundancies between the various initiatives.

The move to mobile money aims to make funds more accessible to beneficiaries, increasing the potential for positive outcomes resulting from the programs. With these changes, it is clear Ghana is dedicated to maximizing results.

We look forward to continuing to follow new developments from Ghana over time and continuing to be a close supporter of the work of Ghana’s Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection.

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Accessible and affordable microinsurance with Afua Donkor

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We are pleased to bring you this #ThursdayThrowback blog post, which was originally published in Resilience: The State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report, 2014. Afua Boahemaa Donkor, executive director of Star Microinsurance in Ghana, explains how they have developed microinsurance products that are simple and affordable for the poor.

>>Authored by Ana Hecton, former intern, and Sabina Rogers, Communications and Relationships Manager

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You can read a transcript of her interview here.
Read the full report here.

The 2014 State of the Campaign Report features various actors in the microfinance sector that are taking steps to help their clients lift themselves out of poverty. In this interview Afua Boahemaa Donkor, executive director of Star Microinsurance in Ghana, talks to DSK Rao from the Microcredit Summit Campaign about how microinsurance works and how it can benefit the poorest. Ms. Donkor also discusses the challenges in providing coverage for the poorest.

Star Microinsurance in Ghana started in 2008 as a specialized microinsurance subsidiary of the Star Insurance Group. Star Microinsurance works to design microinsurance products, looks for distribution channels, and provides the back office administration of the products.

“Microinsurance is supposed to be suave. When I say that, it means that it has to be simple, accessible, understandable, fundable, and efficient.”

— Afua Boahemaa Donkor

Star Microinsurance aims to make their insurance accessible to all people, those living in the city and those living in remote areas. The microinsurance products that are offered by Star Microinsurance are “made very simple, the premiums are set to be very cheap, affordable, so that the informal person, in the rural sector, can afford to have insurance products.”

Star Microinsurance collaborates with rural banks, MFIs, and post offices where the product is located. The rural banks and post offices are spread all throughout Ghana, therefore being highly accessible to all people no matter their location.

The challenges that face microinsurance

When talking about microinsurance and selling it to those living in poverty, Ms. Donkor says that it is hard for people to grasp the concept that they are paying for a possibility that may or may not occur. For those living in extreme poverty, possibilities of the future or what could happen is not a high priority. The demand is for what they need right here, right now. Thus, trying to sell microinsurance to people whose concern is focused solely on getting through that day is very difficult. In fact, “insurance in general is a very difficult thing to sell whether to an educated person or an uneducated person because it is an intangible good we are selling.”

What we know of the impact of microinsurance

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A systematic review of the impact of microinsurance (2013) produced by the ILO’s Microinsurance Innovation Facility. Source:

Voices from the Field: William Derban

Pathways: financial inclusion to end extreme poverty | Find out what we heard from the industry in this year’s Listening Tour

We’ll be bringing you articles throughout April that reflect the results of this year’s Listening Tour
Photo credit: by Geoff (originally posted to Flickr as Pilgrim’s path) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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April is the Month of MicrofinanceLearn more

April is the Month of Microfinance
Learn more

In preparation for our 18th Microcredit Summit, the Campaign conducted a Listening Tour from December 2014 through February 2015. The Listening Tour served two purposes. First, it was our hope to find out how our audience (you) felt about the World Bank’s goal of eradicating poverty by 2030, and equally important, we wished to consult you in identifying the topics that were at the top of everyone’s mind.

The Listening Tour is our time to listen — and your time to speak — on the issues that the microfinance and financial inclusion sector face. We collected your feedback through an online survey and organized conversations with 27 leaders in the microfinance and financial inclusion sector. We heard from them on how financial inclusion can contribute to the goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030 and the role of microfinance in the post-2015 agenda. The results of this consultation will be reflected in the 2015 State of the Campaign Report, the 18th Microcredit Summit, and Campaign Commitments.

Below is a short excerpt from our conversation with Dr. William Derban, director of financial inclusion (CSR & PMO) at Fidelity Bank in Ghana.

Q: What do you think will be needed to achieve the goal of global financial inclusion by 2020 and how can this contribute to the goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030?

William DerbanGovernments are trying to create a good environment, and while MFIs and SACCOs have stepped in to fill a gap, it seems banks have been left out. We need to include them [banks], looking at this not as corporate social responsibility, but as an opportunity for businesses to expand their client base and a responsibility that they have to the people. The key question is, “How can microfinance and the financial inclusion sector better partner with banks and help improve their by creating linkages?” This should not be about competition, but a way that we can collaborate to provide financial services that they [clients] can graduate into as part of this value-chain of financial services.

Q: In relation to our host region, what are the challenges and opportunities facing Africa & the Middle East in regards to microfinance and financial inclusion?

We need more awareness and campaigning of the issues especially in the countries most affected by poverty. In Africa, there is a lack of awareness among the poor about the benefits of having formal financial services. There is a need for financial education so that they understand what impact this can really have on their lives. People need to understand that this is not about financial services for the sake of it, but that a bank account can help you manage your finances and it can serve as a safe place to save for your child’s educations and this can all help you live a better life. In this way, financial education can create empowerment and change.

Q: What are key themes to consider or important debate topics we need to address in the microfinance & financial inclusion sector in the coming year?

Innovation is key! We cannot get to full financial inclusion without technology, but we need to actually develop new ideas and not just replicate what may have worked in one specific country or environment. When innovating in mobile technology, we cannot just work with telecommunications companies but need to include mobile phone manufacturers, app developers, and retail shops. We must find a way to ensure that the public is educated on new innovations and make sure they learn how to use this new technology.

We also need to find ways to scale down or “bank downwards” where banks work on a model that works for the poor. However, we need to create the appropriate partnership in order to do this. Banks can decide to “scale down” [i.e., target poorer populations], but if they do it by themselves, there are certain services they won’t be able to provide.

Related resources

About Fidelity Bank

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) lies at the heart of the vision and mission of Fidelity Bank, Ghana’s largest private indigenous bank. Since inception, CSR at Fidelity has mostly focused on philanthropic endeavors, but now, as a bank that is consolidating its world class status, it has become imperative to align our CSR with our corporate strategy, allowing us to leverage our collective expertise and resources for maximum impact.

Under the theme “Building Lives through Finance,” Fidelity’s CSR work is being led by the director for financial inclusion and CSR, Dr. William Derban. Dr. Derban’s areas of focus are microfinance, payment services, and running the first agency banking service in the country. He is also responsible for aligning the Bank’s corporate responsibility strategy to its core business strategy. In the past 14 years, he has focused on providing sustainable, market based, financial services to the unbanked within the financial industry in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. Dr. Derban earned his doctorate in Microfinance and Development Finance from the Nottingham Business School, UK. He provides lectures on sustainability and financial inclusion and is also a passionate speaker at various conferences on development across Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. Prior to working for Fidelity Bank, Dr. Derban was the head of community relations with Barclays Africa and Emerging Markets where he managed the community investment strategy across 14 countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Subsequently, he led the strategy of downscaling to informal groups with a £10m project working with savings groups across Africa, Asia, and Latin America with CARE international and Plan. In addition to financial inclusion, he has established successful projects on youth entrepreneurship, preventative health, clean energy solutions, female empowerment, and integrated rural development programs.

Learn more about Fidelity Bank.

Accelerate Ghana’s Economy

Congratulations to this week’s winner of the Raffle for Institutional Action Plan Submitters, Accelerate Ghana’s Economy of Ghana!

Submit your IAP to be included in the next Raffle
(download the IAP | submit your completed IAP)



Accelerate Ghana’s Economy (AGE) works as an NGO, helping convert the creativity and passion of prospective micro entrepreneurs into sustainable businesses. With business training and ongoing support, clients can supplement their income and even support themselves full-time in their new businesses. In the end, AGE hopes to bring economic revitalization to Ghana by helping reduce poverty and lower the unemployment rate.


Africa is the only continent yet to attain significant development progress in multiple areas. The technological progress attained in the 21st Century can be either utilized to bridge this gap or can cause Africa to be left further behind the rest of the world. The WOMEN EMPOWERMENT PROGRAMME (WEP) aims to reach the women of Ghana, who make up over 50% of the population. Accelerate Ghana’s Economy believes that neglecting women in any developmental agenda for Ghana will have serious consequences. Although a small scale operation, WEP is the only women-oriented program with government support.

WEP aims to create employment, hoping to access development through the sustainable transformation of lives. The typical AGE client does not know how to create and maintain a successful business. These clients work long hours for little more than minimum wage and, with minimal education, have little opportunity to obtain a better life. With the AGE business training course, clients are surrounded by other supportive members from the savings and loan banks, who share the drive to achieve financial independence and exercise their creativity in a way that they cannot do at their day jobs. The business trainer gives practical information to the class as well as a sense of empowerment by showing the students how small businesses are started every day across the country.