Our time in Ghana has ended….

On Thursday, we had a debrief with the staff from CUA at CUA House. Each coaching team provided an overview and the highlights of their visits they had with the credit unions. It was insightful for the CUA staff and it was apparent that the new tools (that we leave behind) will be of significant value. Mr. Darkuu commented that in the future, it will be very beneficial to have the credit unions that are part of the coaching program also participate in the 1 day orientation session we had when we first arrived in Ghana to review the tools with CUA. We all agreed – this initial meeting was a working session and there were case exercises that we reviewed and the credit unions would benefit greatly from being a part of this. Our debriefs were complete by early afternoon and we then had some spare time before our flights left late that evening.
So what is different this time since I last visited Ghana in 2007? The country seems to be growing quickly:
– credit unions have implemented plans that the coaches have recommended and are showing great results with growth and improved management practices,
– more vehicles on the streets,
– more variety on the store shelves,
– more brands of beer (there were only 3 beer brands then, and there are 10 or so now)
What is the same? – the people are fantastic . Always welcoming, wanting to learn so they can be their best, and very passionate about the future of their country. Fiercely devoted to their national soccer team the Black Stars, the people of Ghana see the team as a lightning rod for them to come together as one to signify everyone’s success.
Travelling home……
We arrived in Heathrow at 5:30 a.m. Friday and our hotel was close to the airport. Several of us slept on the airplane and all of us wanted to catch a nap before doing anything in London. A group of us met at 930 and took the tube into London – a leisurely day. We had lunch at a great English pub, walked all over – Trafalgar Square, the Parliament, Canada Park, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the Eye…we pooped ourselves out and by 430 the 4 of us were headed back to the hotel for a bite to eat and bed. The others from the Ghana coaches had met up with the Uganda coaches and were also in London. They had a bigger appetite for staying in town as they slept longer in the morning….
Saturday was a planned debrief day for all coaches from both country assignments and the CCA staff. It was a chance to decompress, gather insights from the use of the tools, and learn about successes coaches might have had. This was a new element compared to my previous coaching experience and it was very valuable. Helping create some understanding of coming back to our regular busy lives with work and family pressures was very practical. We all had our supper together and then some went out to a pub for a local brew. I went to my room and bed early as I was planning an early morning.
On Sunday, I got up early as I was taking the bus to Heathrow, hopping on the tube to Kings Cross and then getting on the train to Royston which is near the Imperial War Museum in Duxford (near Cambridge). This is an active airport and was a RAF Base in WW2 with Hurricanes, Spitfires, and Mustangs (among others) stationed there.
This was my vacation day and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There are 8 areas to explore – mostly centered on aviation, but there was some land based equipment in a couple of buildings. You get to walk through a supersonic Concorde. There are many samples of historic planes on display.
In a separate hangar, you can go in and see many aircraft that are still flying – there many carrier (navy) aircraft that I had not heard of before.
The photo shows a twin seat Spitfire….one of only 3 or so in the world and valued at a couple of million dollars. Watch this video for to see a similar 2 seater in flight – the Spitfire in the video is actually based at this same airfield.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHqGSDCWVFk

It was a blustery and cold day at the Duxford aerodrome – there were some tourists going up in a Harvard – the radial engine ringing out a chorus that everyone turned to listen to. A great day and a fantastic museum to end the trip with.

Dual Spitfirelook at the prop!Messerschmitt Bf 109trimotor

Eager to hear our suggestions….

Staff at Redemption

Staff at Redemption

Redemption Co-op Credit Union is a small, parish based credit union with room to grow. The board, for simplicity and convenience, meets jointly with the loans and supervisory committees monthly – which means these committees that are set up to operate independent of influence from the board, are essentially circumventing the safeguards the structure has put in place. After reviewing our concerns with the manager and the board secretary, they felt re-assured as they had had small small disucssions in the past, but the affirmation from the coaches gave them new resolve to address these concerns.

The credit union bylaws has also enabled the board to delegate authority to the manager, but they had never taken advantage of this. Members asking for loans had to wait for the monthly credit commitee meeting and were not being served well by this.
Many of the loans were smaller in size to members that had been successful in paying off previous loans. The board will be addressing providing loan approval to the manager for these more routine loans – a postive stpe for the management and for the members.

Along with several other recommendations, our repirt was positively recived and Bruce and I have completed the onsite visits with credit unions. We have some homework to do for CCA whcih we can do between now and Canada – we have a debrief on Thursday and then off to arrive in London Friday monring and then leave to Canada on Sunday/Monday.

The whole experience here in Ghana with the credit unions again has been very gratifying – I am always surprised at the insight we Canadians are able to offer even in areas outside of our expertise. There have been many changes in the 7 years since I was last year – I will note them in my next post…..

Helping our last credit union this trip

Today, Bruce and I visited with a small credit union orginally based on the membership of a church in one area of Accra. It has opened to a community bond, but it’s key membership is from a church.

The credit union has several challenges that we have jointly identifed with the manager and chair. They are similar to those identifed in an audit completed at the previous year end.  While small in assets and membership, the credit union has lots of room to grow and increase its loans made to members. Hopefully, we can instill some suggestions with the board that will help drive the successful growth over the coming months….

A board member sets an example….

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We have been meeting with the board of Madina Teachers Credit Union and reviewed our comments and suggestions with them on Monday.  One item in particular we noted was that a previous audit identifed that not all elected committee members and board members had the minimun 100 cedi share requirement to be a member (and in effect disqualify them from serving on the board). This new board is committed and engaged with their responsibiliites. They had disucssed this and agreed this was a necessary pre-requisite to good governance and as we spoke about this, Madame Efua slipped away to her handbag and returned with a 20 cedi note, passed it over to the treasurer and with satisfaction, commented that she too is now a full and complete member! She now had the required membership shares. Let shope this sets an example for any other baord member or elected committee member that may be short of member share balances. (Note that a member can fall short of minimum share balances as a result of changes to the requirements due to mergers or rules changes in the credit union)

We had many suggestions for MATCU ranging from:

–  delegating authority to the manager to approve more routine, smaller amount loans, rather than all loans going to the credit committee,

– engaging a loans officer to address loan delinquency,

– providing more staff resource to complete the data conversion from paper to the computer system

I am quite confident the board will address these and the other suggestions we had for them. The board is committed to the credit union success and the manager has expertise that will benefit the credit union.

Reunion with Aba Hagan in Ghana

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Today, Sunday, I went off to visit with Aba Hagan, the Manageress at AAK Teachers Credit Union in Abura Dunkwa, Aba was part of the Womens Mentorship program and stayed with our family when we lived in Abbotsford.  Bri also visited with her and her son, Kwame when she was in Cape Coast last August.

 

it was great to see her – their home is finished and is very nice. I met with her and her hsuband and Kwame and Felicia. Then Aba took me to her home village – about 15 minutes by vehicle on remote roads. The village just got electricity in 2012. Aba took me there to meet her family – her brother has passed away and all her sisters and brother are in the village with her nieces and nephews. The funeral is tomorrow.  Funerals are a big thing in Ghana, and for Aba’s family it has more significance as they are part of the Chief’s Royal Family. The previous chief was her uncle – I couldnt figure out the connection to the current chief, but there is a relatively close relation.

So, introducing a white man to people in the village where she is a Royal is a big thing. it was refreshing to meet these people – some very old ladies and men who wanted to meet me. My accent must be quite funny, because when I say hello and ask them their name in Twi they all smile and laugh. But they understand, ask me back. Some even break into conversation in Twi with me until I hold up my hands and smile…..then some one lets them know that I dont know many words…..it is fun.

 

The village is small – Kwame didn’t know how many people live there. But you can walk around the village in 10 minutes and boy it was hot today. As it was Sunday, and there was another funeral already taking place, all the people were in their forma Ghanaian dress – black and white, or red or black. Yet, they are all cheerful at this point – they remember the good times and are happy that the family is all together again. Some travel for 8 hours to be at the funeral.

I will post a few photos at the flickr site tomorrow….. 

Black Stars WIn

DSC02225On Thursday afternoon, we returned to the hotel to see a crowd of people hanging around just outside the the boundary of the hotel outdoor restaurant. They were all watching the Black Stars soccer game against Mali. The crowd erupted when the Black Stars scored their only goal and it was enough to win. They play on Monday afternoon and our meeting with the Medina Teachers Credit Union has been scheduled at a time where no conflict with the game arises.

Friday was a new credit union, as mentioned they are a teachers credit union in Medina that has opened their bond of association. In 2012, the whole board was newly elected – the terms of the board members are not staggered. This board has had to make some strategic decisions and some difficult ones. The manager was let go and the new board set forth with developing a plan, getting bylaws in place, as well as a credit policy and operational procedures defined. The board has been in place for about 18 mnths now.

Both Bruce and I commented to each other how refreshing it was to see a board that was truly energized with their responsibilities and their commitment to improving the credit union. They have hired a female manageress, Victoria, who seems very well suited to her role. She has a undergrad degree in accouting and has certianly helped drive the credit union to become more accountable and to take action. She would be a great candidate for the Women’s Mentoring program.

As part of its direction to become open bond, the credit union has embarked on a new office that with high delinquency, has created some cash flow challenges. The credit union will be developing a plan to overcome this.

Late Friday evening, Bruce and I travelled with Bright, our driver to Elmina/Cape Coast where we met up with Anthony and Derek. We have checked into a comfortable hotel called the Elmina Beach Resort. It took Bruce and I, 3+ hours to travel approximatley 130 kms from Accra.
This morning, Saturday, we all went to the Kakum National Park where we experienced the canopy walk 100 feet above the forest/jungle floor. We also went on a nature hike with a guide who showed us many of the plants/trees used in traditional medicine. The medicinal examples were particulalry interesting. He showed us a vine that you suck on a piece of it to stop a cough, a tree from which the sap is used to make mosquito repellent, and another tree that he nicked with a knife, and it immediately began to seep and ooze a white a liquid – it was wood glue and yes it was sticky.
http://www.kakumnationalpark.info/1.html
I am glad we took the extra hike as I did not do tihs on my previous trip here in 2006.

In the afternoon, Bruce and I went a toured Elmina castle ( a prison for slaves actually)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elmina_Castle
It has had some remedial work completed on is – the castle is 530 years old and it has weathered many storms. The story the guides tell about the expereinces of the slaves is quite telling and is something everyone should see or read about.

Tomorrow (Sunday), I am going to visit with Madame Aba Hagan in her home village I believe. (it has no electricity). I will have our driver take me to Abura Dunkwa and Kwame will drive me to the village. at the end of the day, Kwame will also drive me back to Accra as he is returnign there also on Sunday..

Echina

Meeting the Animal Research Institute Credit Union…

Today (Wed) Bruce and I were at this credit union which orinally was a closed bond credit union. This credit union was made up of staff that worked in Animal Research – studying ways to increase the production and health of domesticated farm animals for food produciton. they have extended their bond to be community wide, and have added several other government groups and orgainziations. They have a well educated board and will be computerized within a month or so. Their challenge is to grow their lending portfolio (very conservative) to increase their income. The vast majority of their loans are paid by payroll deduction so delinquency is below 2 %.

We had a number of suggestions for them in terms of governance, loan policy and taking more risk (knowing it may increase delinquncy) to increase income. Once they are computerized, they will engage one or 2 of their existing staff complement to proactively go out in the community and increase membership. Computerization will increase the branch capacity and the staff will no longer be needed most days to complete routine transactions. We also suggested more delegation from the board committees to the office manager for more routine loan approvals and standard transactions which will lessen the workload for the committees/board.

We also had a tour of the science building by one of the directors and saw all of the parasites that typically are a problem for livestock (cattle, goats, sheep, chickens, grass cutter, rabbits, pigs). She pulled out a sample of a tapeworm that can infect swine (also present in bears) from a sample bottle and I estimate it was 30 cms long. We humans can get them too!

Today (Thursday), Ghana’s Black Stars are playing Mali in the Africa Nation’s Cup. We have finished for the day early along with most of the nation. Soccer is passoinately followed by Ghanaians and the have more world visibility after making it to the final 8 in the last World Cup (missed a penalty kick in the last minutes of the game – game was tied and Ghana lost in, if I remember correctly, via penalty kicks) The fans are ouring in to the bar we are sitting in as we plan our day tomorrow and the weekend. Really – we are working!!

For photos, look here as my wordpress accoutn has exceeded the file limit.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/77631572@N02/