The Ghana Micro-Finance Institutions Network (GHAMFIN) and Support Programme for Enterprise Empowerment and Development (SPEED Ghana) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 launched a consumer education and protection programme for institutions and clients in the micro-finance sub-sector in Ghana.
Mr. Ken Appenteng, Micro-Finance Expert with SPEED Ghana said the programme is designed to safeguard the interests of consumers of micro-finance services by equipping them with relevant education and skills to enable them make informed decisions on such services.
He said the programme was also meant to educate them about their rights and responsibilities to help clients take appropriate actions on matters affecting their financial health and well-being.
Mr. Appenteng noted that consumer education covered the financial literacy on individuals and how to acquire right information from financial institutions at different stages of the borrowing and investment cycle.
He said underlying consumer protection measures such as quality services, dignified treatment of clients, truthful, transparent and easy to understand strategies and privacy of clients' information were some of the ethical considerations to ensure commitment by financial institutions to clients.
The Micro-finance expert observed that the campaign to protect micro-finance clients was a global one to also ensure fair and respectable treatment of consumers of financial services by financial institutions.
The consumer education and protection campaign is being organised in collaboration with the consumer education working group under the Ghana micro finance Forum and would use media, such posters, stickers, drama, road shows, handouts and the mass media, among others, to disseminate information.
Mr Gyan-Baffour, Deputy Minster of Finance and Economic Planning whose speech was read on his behalf said educating clients in the financial sector was a critical component to poverty alleviation.
He said the goal of the Ghana Micro Finance Policy was to promote the delivery of efficient and sustainable micro finance services to achieve wealth creation and lauded the organisations for their positive contributions.
Mr. Gyan-Baffour said government had resolved to improve and create enabling environment for the effective operation of the financial sector to enhance the financial level of Ghanaians adding, " This is going to be done through intensive education programme".
"Government plans to devote a week in each year, to create greater awareness. The modalities for the programme are being worked out, it is in this context that government views the campaign as a significant milestone in the industry", he added.
"We, as policy makers, will not hesitate to lend our support to this concept of not only protecting these clients but, more importantly, educating and empowering them to know their rights and responsibilities when it comes to access financial services".
Dr David O Andah, Executive Secretary, GHAMFIN noted that the joint initiative sought to create awareness among micro finance clients of what they have to know about their dealings with financial institutions and financial literacy.
He said many Micro-finance Institutions in pursuit of expanding their outreach tend to pay less attention to the interests of the clients other than the request to repay loans on time.
According to him Consumer Education is the ultimate means to empower poor clients, informing them of their right and obligations, adding; "It will enable clients to stand up against unfair practices".
Dr Andah said findings by SPEED Network of Micro-finance showed that, where loan conditions, including collection process were effectively explained to the understanding of the client, there was much greater adherence to obligations on repayment.