Nalerigu: Some traders rely on ‘Susu’ boxes over financial sector challenges

Despite the presence of many financial institutions including banks and micro finance firms across the country, about 43 percent of Ghanaians are still not served by any formal finance firm.

This led to the formulation of Ghana’s National Financial Inclusion and Development Strategy in 2018, to among other targets, increase access to formal financial services from the current 57 percent to 85% by 2023.

In some towns in the North East Region for instance, there’s high demand for Ghana’s traditional ‘Susu’ box due to the absence of effecient financial services.

This comes at a time when confidence in financial institutions in Ghana has reduced due to difficulties in the financial sector that has seen the collapse of nine local banks and over 400 other financial institutions in a massive clean-up by regulators.

Depositors funds remain locked up although government has stepped in to protect some depositors in specific cases.

Nalerigu, a town that was recently named the capital of the newly created North East Region, has a diverse populace engaged in different income generating activities; but has no functional financial institution.

A carpenter, Samuel Klu and his apprentices, say they’re forced to produce more savings boxes these days to meet the high demand.

Samuel manufactures different household items including benches, chairs among other items. But in the last two years, the Susu box production has become part of his routine due to high patronage.

“Traders use the boxes to save money; since they do not earn monthly income, they resort to this means. A lot of people testify to the benefits of the susu boxes.”

Government’s official statistics suggest that there is presently 57% coverage of formal financial services in Ghana, but the coverage may be lower in actual terms.

To ensure that formal financial services reach excluded groups in Ghana, the government tabled a document titled the National Financial Inclusion and Development Strategy before cabinet in 2018, which will help undertake reforms to deepen the country’s financial markets and promote inclusion.

The move was backed by a 30-million-dollar credit facility from the World Bank through the International Development Association to help in parts to bridge the gap and promote financial inclusiveness, particularly among rural women and farmers.

But this document is yet to be fully implemented as the people in some parts of the country remain excluded financially.

Dora Tanko, a business woman, said she had to resort to the money boxes because the financial sector crisis has led to her funds being locked up in a Rural Bank.

“I used to save with the rural bank, but anytime I want to withdraw, I am unable to do so. Now I have even stopped going there. This is why I decided to buy the box and since then it has been helpful. I was able to save to build my house.”

The boxes come in sizes according to Samuel Klu, because he understands people’s financial strengths are different.

“Some go for 15 cedis, others 20. Ghc10, Ghc3 cedis and 4 cedis. The bigger ones with padlocks go for 35 and 45 cedis.”

The savings culture among Ghanaians is generally low as data from the Ministry of Finance shows that 48 percent of the adult population in Ghana is not saving with any financial institution.

Samuel Klu says some students have patronized his boxes in order to ensure their coins are safe.

“Some School children come to buy the boxes. When their parents give them pocket money they will not spend all but save the rest. This helps parents who cannot afford to pay the fees of their wards”.

For Dora Tanko who supplies food items, she wants the government has to extend financial services to the area.

“These rural banks and saving schemes are not helping us. We want commercial banks where we can undertake transactions. So, the government should help some of them to extend branches here.”