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19.12.2005 Business & Finance

Barclays launches Initiative to Assist Informal Sector

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Accra, Dec 19, GNA - Barclays Bank Ghana on Monday launched a microbanking initiative that will extend financial services to some of the least affluent in the country, such as petty traders, artisans and the micro-entrepreneur.

The scheme is a joint effort by the bank and micro finance institutions, like the traditional susu collectors and other existing indigenous financial institutions, which are already providing either loans or savings facilities to bring banking services and products to the door steps of the unbanked segment of society.

Barclays is committing an amount of 2.4 billion cedis as seed money to fund the project in 2006.

"What we are doing is somewhat unique. Not only are we creating an account for Susu Collectors to deposit their funds, we are also providing them with loans of their own, which they can lend on to their customers, helping them build their capital," said Margaret Mwanakatwe, Managing Director of Barclays Bank Ghana.

The Bank is currently running a trial programme with 100 Susu Collectors.

Ms Mwanakatwe said the model if successful would be replicated in other African countries.

She said there was a lot that banks could learn from the operation of Susu collectors, adding that the banks had not been aggressive enough in creating awareness about the benefits of banking among the unbanked segment.

Ms Mwanakatwe said it was in this connection that the bank was including in the package a special capacity building programme for participating microfiance institutions to enhance their delivery. Mr. Dominic Bruynseels, Managing Director of Barclyas Africa and Middle East said the microbanking initiative was a product of the bank's commitment and loyalty to the communities in which they operated. "Barclays Microbanking Initiative is about access to capital for our women, our petty traders and our small indigenous private sector operators. It is about making them aware of banking products and services that will enable them to do their businesses better," he said. Professor Gyan Baffour Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning who launched the scheme expressed the hope that it would help mobilize monies outside the banking sector to enhance economic activities.

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