Thursday, January 24, 2013
Gene and I visited the Animal Research Institute Credit Union on Wed and Thur. We were going in the opposite direction of the mass flow of traffic and still took over an hour to get north to Frafafa in Greater Accra a distance of about 25 kms.
We were met by the CU manager and his three staff. Members of the board, including the Chairman, Dr Charles Domozoro dropped over at various times during the day to welcome us. The secretary of the board, Andrews Kofi Assante (Andy) and the manager, Yaw Mensa spent most of the day with us as we learned about their credit union.
The ARI is a government department under the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research ministry. The ARI does research in the area of improving the production of livestock for food. There are 4 facilities around the country and we visited the main operations. The CU office is in space provided in the administration office.
The CU was started in 1999 as a closed bond society that only served the staff of the ARI offices around the country. Recently they adopted an open bond that allows them to serve more than just the employees. The main operations are located in a community called Fafraha. There is a population that is not served by any other nearby CU and they were able to increase their membership. Today is stands at little over 1000 members and they have aggressive plans to grow to 3000 or 5000 members.
Almost 100 percent of the staff of ARI are members and make up a little over 600 of the current 1000 members. The staff have just recently completed a project to enter the membership information into a new computer system and now await some assistance from the software supplier for help in adding the members account information into the computer system. In the meantime they continue to use pen and paper in a ledger card system and give members handwritten receipts and passbooks. Most of the deposits come to the CU by payroll deduction from the ARI payroll department.
The CU has some very interesting projects that are designed to provide benefits to the membership and make the CU attractive to join. The CU has an investment in a Layer and Broiler Chicken operation in the community. Using their technical expertise and dollars (well really Ghanaian Cedis) they invested in this operation. They bought a chicken for every member at Christmas plus had a small profit at the end of the year.
They have a food hamper program where the members can buy a supply of food items and pay for it via a small loan.
Again, a benefit for membership to both the staff and outside members. Two Cedi is a Canadian dollar.
The CU also has a land development project where they bought a parcel of land a few years ago and are in the process of surveying and subdividing this into building lots. They then sell the land to the members at a much reduced price in comparison to the regular real estate market – about half. The members who want a lot, make an agreement and then buy the land over time. It seems that the average person takes about 7 years to purchase the land, buy the materials and construct the house. Every stage needs to be paid for in cash, there are no mortgage loans. They laughed when we talked about 25 year amortizations on mortgage loans. They will save to buy the land, save to buy the blocks for the walls, save to buy the timbers for the roof, save for the metal for the roof, save to finish the interior – maybe plumbing, tiles for the floors and furnishings.
There are as many buildings, homes, apartments or office buildings, under construction as there are built today. They just don’t get done quickly.
Our report was well received by the board and they were anticipating some of our recommendations as they were well aware of some of the things that would improve their operation. The questions asked and comparisons made to our Canadian operations indicated that they were keen to see the continued development of their CU.
The Africa Cup is being played in South Africa now and Ghana’s national football team was on the pitch at 3:00. The nation almost stood still for 2 hours. It was fun to watch them watch the match. They were like any Rider or NHL fan in the seats or in a seat in a bar or at home. Everyone helped coach the team through the entire match. Shouts, groans and cheering assisted the Ghanaians to a 1-0 victory over Mali.