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How susu collectors and microfinance companies are supporting women with business loans

Most Ghanaian women from all walks of life in the informal sector have held the sky very high. They shield families, friends, be they peasant farmers, agro-processors, traders and household employees, and contribute immensely towards the economic development of this nation.

These women can be seen running their business as peasant farmers, traders operating on tabletops, food vendors, cloth sellers moving from house to house carrying goods on their heads, dressmakers and sachet water sellers.  In one way or the other they have all made a living for themselves and their families by sustaining these businesses having moved forward and improved on their livelihoods.

Some of them may not have gone to school, but their vision to make a contribution towards sustaining the economy has enabled them to push the economic frontiers of the nation forward.

As things stand now, the serious and hard working ones have moved on from operating on table tops by having rented container shops and expanded their businesses.

This expansion has enabled them to move to the next level by accessing loans from microfinance and susu operators and banks, all aimed at further expanding their businesses and the nation’s economy.

Yaa Baby is 40 years old and a mother of four.  She has been selling sachet water at Makola No. 2 Market for the past 20 years.  She obtained some GH¢1,000 from a Susu operator for her water business.  At the time there was no sachet water as we have it now. Water was sold from buckets using plastic cups.  Traders at that time, used two cups for selling the water, one for fetching the water from the bucket while the other cup was used by the customer.  It was not hygienic because of the surge in tuberculosis infection.

Later, “I added selling kenkey and rice and luckily for the water business, it did not die because my water went to serve my customers.   So in effect I killed two birds with one stone.  Through this business I have been able to educate all my four kids, single-handedly,” she said.

“The father of my children died when the eldest was just 10 years.  Two went to the University of Ghana at Legon and the last one is at Akufo-Addo, I was able to do this through hardwork and blessing from God,” Yaa Baby concluded.

Hannah Danquah, 32 and a mother of one is a beneficiary of support from the Ghana Women’s Fund (GWF), since 2013.  She says she benefitted with support from the Fund when she got involved in selling water for a living.

“I approached them for assistances. When I got the assistance of GH¢2,000 from the (GWF), I was able to expand my business by adding other products such as selling of foodstuff, provisions and moved from my tabletop to a container four years ago in 2014.

“Today, I have progressed from my initial GH¢2,000 support to GH¢4,000).  I am glad from my initial association with the Ghana Women’s Fund to where I have reached now”.

“All one needs is to keep faith with GWF by paying promptly the monthly repayment schedule as required by GWF conditions of repayments of the loan facility.”

“I am very happy about the push given me by the Fund because they have helped me to move miles ahead in pushing my business towards contributing to the economic development of Ghana.  Other colleagues of mine who have benefitted from the fund should push their expectation to enable those on the waiting list to also benefit.

The Ghana Women Fund has served the Ghanaian women entrepreneurs to move forward,” Hannah concluded.

Despite these success stories from some of the women who have benefitted from both susu operators and microfinance organisations and from banks, there are other women entrepreneurs who are still facing challenges in accessing financial support to grow their businesses.

It is against this background that the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Plan (NEIP) has come to provide support for these small businesses and help them grow so they can access the international markets with their goods and services.

Lack of courage among some of the female entrepreneurs who dominate the small and medium scale enterprises to take risks had served as disincentive in developing their businesses.

The time has now come for female entrepreneurs to muster courage and take reasonable risk to enable them move their businesses forward.

The fear of losing sometimes makes some women entrepreneurs to get stuck in their tracks and as such continue to operate from their comfort zones, a practice which does not support business growth.

Women should be conversant with the terms of their loan payment requirements, learn some basic accounting and financial management skills and not dip their hands into their business finances anyhow just because the money is theirs.

They should set money aside as their monthly salary which they can use to settle their financial encumbrances.

The basic requirement for one to access credit from a susu collector, micro-finance organisation or a bank is for an individual to register one’s business with the organization as a requirement.

To support women entrepreneurs, especially, physically challenged women, the President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo on April 30 this year disbursed an amount of GH¢2 million to support 1,000 beneficiaries under the Presidential Empowerment Fund.

He told the women that they would not be required to pay any interest on the amount except to pay back only 50 per cent of the principal. The programme is being executed by the Ministry of Business Development through the NEIP.

The President further indicated that the disbursement of the funds was his government’s support for disabled women entrepreneur so as to help them scale up their businesses and employ more people.

The move is anticipated in the short term to help each beneficiary to be able to employ at least two persons each year to help curb the rising unemployment rate in the country.

In addition to this first tranche of money, the Ministry of Business Development had set a target to further mobilize GH¢2 million to support another 1,000 disabled women in business.

The President promised the disabled women that he would personally follow their work and possibly visit them in their work places in due course to monitor their progress of work and urged them to work hard to expand their businesses.

By Wendy Asiama
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