“Last year, thieves broke into our house and stole our money box. We were unable to tell how much was in the box because we have different people’s money in tins and small sacks inside the box”, noted Stella Nyaaba, Leader of Anafobiisi Asongtaaba Leligo Cooperative.
Women in most societies play a crucial role as food producers, providers and managers. In rural Ghana, women are usually responsible for harvesting, processing, and marketing farm produce. To save proceeds generated from their agri-businesses, most women in Northern Ghana form Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs), where they save money in boxes that are usually locked with three padlocks for security. Though the women groups solve their basic financial challenges through the VSLAs, there are issues of poor and inaccurate records keeping, and security as narrated by Stella.
In response to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9, which emphasizes the need to facilitate sustainable and resilient infrastructure development in developing countries through enhanced financial, technological and technical support, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is poised to support Africa in its digital transformation drive. In Ghana, UNDP in partnership with Vodafone Ghana Foundation, Access Bank and Youth Harvest Foundation, is supporting women to harness mobile technology for digital and financial inclusion. The aim is to empower them to run strong and profitable businesses and bridge digital gaps, through a programme titled ‘Bringing the Informal to the Formal through Technology’.
As part of the programme’s activities, more than 60 women group leaders, who are mostly into rice parboiling, have so far benefited from two different training sessions this year. The first training focused on equipping them with the requisite knowledge, skills and attitudes that will enable them to run strong and profitable businesses and become better money managers.
“At the first training, we learnt how to take stock of money contributed by our members, so we started keeping records of contributions in a book”, noted Stella.
“I have learnt to separate business money from family money, and I stopped impulse buying. I also just don’t go for loans because others are collecting, so I will say the first training has helped a lot”, said Gilberta Akoka, Leader of Sungitmas Women Group in Sapelga in Bawku West District of the Upper East region.
At the second training, Vodafone Ghana Foundation has provided the women with sim cards and took them through hands-on practical experience on how to operate their mobile wallets. To facilitate group transactions, Access Bank has provided them with bank accounts, which were linked to their mobile wallets. This is to enable the women leaders to fully benefit from the national mobile money interoperability system, by receiving and sending money to their members’ mobile wallets in the comfort of their homes.
‘I think the mobile wallet will be better because this will prevent stealing”, Mary Atanga of Bongo, stated.
Digitizing the village savings and loans schemes is to formalize the operations of these women, leveraging technology. The women group leaders are expected to train over 2000 members on the knowledge received on business development, basic accounting and on how to use the digital saving platforms. This is to help secure their finances and improve the profitability of their small businesses, to the benefits of more than 10,000 household members.