Welcome to the Canadian Co-operative Association's international development blog devoted to the Uganda, Malawi and Ghana coaching missions of 2012. Experience the mission through volunteers working on the frontline of development, with their photos, words and videos.
The Ghana coaches plot their course through Accra, Ghana.
After arriving on Saturday, the Ghana coaches
spent Sunday walking through parts of the city of Accra. Many shops and road side stands were closed,
so road and pedestrian traffic was relatively light. It was a good way for the Canadians to get
used to things here.
The crush of people on Monday was a completely
different matter. Traffic and activity
that would be completely at home at Young and Bloor at 8:30 am or 4:30 pm.
After our rest day, we began the week with a
briefing by CUA, the Ghana Co-operative and Credit Union Association (similar
in many ways to a provincial or national credit union central). CUA’s role is to support and guide the local credit
unions (CU’s), provide training, technical support, assist with bylaws and
policies, and work with regulators to enact and guide co-op legislation. This is often grassroots stuff (they even
provide stationery and passbooks) – and very effective!!
CCA has been a partner with CUA in Ghana since
1988, providing development and training funds, and channeling CIDA (Canadian
International Development Agency) funding into the region. The coaching project, along with others such
as the Women’s Mentorship Program, are the result of CCA’s partnerships with
There are 411 credit unions in Ghana, plus
another 114 study groups that are not affiliated with CUA, and are usually
in-development credit unions that have not yet met CUA standards. Many credit unions are quite small, often a
manager and a handful of staff members.
In many cases, the board of directors is quite involved in all aspects
of the CU.
Credit unions in Ghana are the same as, but very
different from, Canadian credit unions.
They are both financial co-operatives and follow the seven co-operative
principles. But while our CUs are
heavily regulated and generally provide a wide range of products and services
to its membership, most local CU’s are savings and loans, and financial
coaches. The CU legislation is decades
old and out-dated; new changes have yet to be proclaimed which can be limiting
to both CUA and the CUs.
The Ghana coaches at CUA.
Ghana credit unions are intimately linked to
their communities through a deeply ingrained community economic development
mentality that is cultural and generations old.
If these CU’s didn’t exist, many, many people (generally low income, but
not always) would not have access to financial services. Until recently, there
hasn’t been a culture of savings in Ghana, so the local CUs and CUA are working
to change that. There are banks, but
most CU members wouldn’t qualify to become bank customers.
And the credit union’s loans – these are
micro-loans,… usually 2-3 times the amount of shares or savings a member has
held in the credit union. We are talking
hundreds of cedis, not thousands or millions.
(1 USD = 1.67 Ghana cedis.) This
is grassroots CED; microfinancing at its most pure.
By the afternoon, the coaches were itching to get
out of CUA and into their first postings.
Each team of coaches has been scheduled for two-day visits at three
credit unions each. The furthest teams
would have to stay overnight mid-way, through their journey but a few coaches
were able to reach their destinations on Monday. The rest would be there early on Tuesday so
they could get in their full two-days of mentoring and coaching. Many of the teams have blogs, and they are
linked at the right side of this screen.
From time to time, I will be linking or quoting from one of their
AS AN ASIDE:
African time is different than North American time. 9am is usually understood to be 9am ISH. With the ISH almost always being later rather
than earlier. The coaches all were
prepared for this, but seeing it in action and experiencing it takes a bit of
getting used to. We all know that we
should ‘think African’ and by the end of this mission, I’m sure we’ll all be
fully indoctrinated in their way of thinking about time. (I wonder how long it will take us in our
jobs to return to “normal”?)