Gene and I made the trip back to the Madina TCU on Monday am to spend a little more time with the manager Victoria before the planned meeting with the Board of Directors at noon.
We had completed the most of our report on Sunday evening and had some additional questions and clarification was needed on a couple of items. We made some minor changes to the report and added a couple of sections and then reviewed our report with Victoria to make sure she was comfortable with what we were identifying and recommending for changes.
Our review and recommendations covered a number of areas: Delinquency management, Governance, Strategic Planning, Loan Operations, and Human Resource Development. At the 37% rate of delinquency, we spent a lot of time and focus here.
As the board was all brand new a little over a year ago, they had to be quite hands on with the operation of the CU, primarily as a learning experience for themselves. Since the hiring of Victoria and the establishment of their planning document, we suggested that they let her manage and they provide the strategy and oversight to the operation. They don’t need to have their loans committee who meets once a month to provide 100% of the decisions about loan approvals. Imagine the member that needs to wait 30 days for an approval when the competing banks and micro finance companies can get the loan approved and funded in a day or two. At a much higher interest rate, but does the interest rate matter when I need the funds in a few days versus as much as 30 days?
As with the first Credit Union, the board and staff of the CU were very curious about our system and operations. We explained that our sharing of knowledge and experience came from 75 years of history and that the challenges that they face today are the same challenges Canadian CU’s faced in our early years.
We try hard to learn and use a few common phrases in Twi the most common native language. Me din de Yaw Píèsíe Bruce. My name is Bruce and I was born on a Thursday (Yaw – pronounced Yow) and I am the first born male in my family. We badly butcher the accents but everyone has a broad smile or outright laughter.
Hello, Goodbye, Good Morning, Thank You are also received in the same manner. I am working on ordering a beer. Ma me nsa toa baako. That one just gets a blank stare and I fall back to “I will have a big big Star”. Nice lager beer in a 675 ml bottle, that’s the big big part.
At both CUs and occasionally in chatting with the staff in the hotel or other servers, I am asked about my impressions of Ghana, I respond and talk about coming from Regina where we have a population of less than 250,000 and the first “smack in your face” impression is the density of the population and the amount of traffic. Keep in mind that Accra is 2,291,000 and the region of Greater Accra is 4,000,000. The city of Accra covers, and area of 173 sq. kilometers. That is over 13,200 people per sq kilometer. Regina covers an area of 145 sq kms for our roughly 225,000 people or a density if 1,551 people per sq km.
As I said earlier – wall to wall people and vehicles.
The next biggest impression is of the warmth and welcoming people that we have met. Akwaaba is said to us often. You are welcome here. The people seem genuinely happy and sincere in wanting to know about where we come from and wanting us to be happy and comfortable. So far the experience has been great.
Back to the hotel and again watch the country grind to a halt as Ghana was playing another football match in the African Cup tournament. Niger was the victim today. In the restaurant at the hotel there were staff, patrons and neighbours dropping in to view the game. One guy came draped in the flag, wearing his jersey and sporting a temporary tattoo on his forehead. Ghana prevailed 3-0 and will advance to the next round and play again on Sat. It was fun to see and listen to the fans and watch their wild gestures with their hands and arms at every close shot at either goal.
Tuesday we are off to our last Credit Union – Redeemer Parish in the community of Banana Inn.