Teach my parents why to save and I will be an entrepreneur: A Manual on Financial Inclusion?
What does Financial Inclusion mean? Am I part of the financial world? How can the financial gurus help me transform my life in the village?
I grew up in a village. My uneducated parents lived there and worked variously as small-scale crop farmers, food sellers, drivers, local drink distillers. My parents busily produced a lot of children until one day a midwife in the village had a chat with my parents and they decided to stop producing more children. Fortunately we the kids heard what happened and understood that the economic impact of such a huge and poor population could be gloomy as we grow up. Unfortunately for us it was too late then. With between 10 and 21 children a piece, our parents could not feed us properly, clothe us properly and educate us properly.
God bless the village midwife. Me and my siblings and our mates halted over production of babies. So now our average production rate in the village is 2.5 per family down from 11.5 less than 40 years ago.We are proud owners of knowledge about family planning.
Our parents had small family lands we all worked on. Our mothers will harvest and sell the produce on the market during the harvest season. We smiled a lot during the harvest season. Life was indeed great if we could harvest. But that unfortunately is also the problem. We could not always harvest enough to feed us. The reason then was simple. We could not plant enough. Our parents could not afford to either store enough seedlings, or buy more. Therefore part of the land will remain fallow. Sometimes our parents will get lucky and manage to store seedlings or buy more. It was pure luck rather than wisdom. The cycle continued for our parents and is continuing for some of us who are still in the villages. I admit a few Governmental and NGO interventions are making it easier for some of us to get seedlings in some years.
The lands our parents farmed on are the same we are farming on. The size hasn’t reduced. Well some of us have been ‘wise’ to sell to some rich people who are now building huge mansions. Unfortunately the monies did not last long. For those of us who still live on our lands life hasn’t been any different from that of our parents. I should qualify that and say …relatively.
Now, I have a few questions. If my parents had someone like ‘the village midwife’ come teach them about how to save during the bumper season wouldn’t they have learnt something? Although there was a Government Commercial Bank in the big town near us, I am sure my parents thought it was a strange animal meant for only ‘the big people’. The situation is no different today for me and my mates who are still in the village. Yes we see more banks when we go to the city. To us they are still ‘strange animals for the big people’.
One day my mates and I we went to one of the Government Commercial Banks to look at what happens inside and we were told we need to have a beast called ‘collateral’ if we wished to get a loan to buy seedlings. I am happy to say some small businessmen in our village have been collecting susu (I am the best among my mates because I pay 3 Ghana cedis every day) from us but when it is time to collect, it is not enough to buy seeds.
When the ‘big men’ in the bank with their big coats were talking about ‘collateral’, we asked them what they want as collateral. They mentioned a house, a car, and such impossible things. We told them that we have farms that our parents have farmed on for years and we have also been farming on the same lands. They asked if we have documentation on the land.
Really funny isn’t it? Where do we get the money to prepare the documentation on the land. Those friends of ours who sold their lands were sent to the District office to sign some documents. The big men from the banks would want us to sell them our lands? No way. So we are are not doing any documentation, even if we had the money. We have been to the other banks in the cities and they always ask the same thing. We tell them we have our lands, we farm, we pay our susu, when we need money we go to the loan sharks and we pay something like 58% daily interest. All they say is they cannot help us without collateral.
I am happy to say the big man in our village now operates as a microfinance and he also has mobile money. I am the proud owner of mobile money on my telephone number ‘0XX XXXXXXX’. Yet I still cannot get a loan to buy seedlings.
I have a few questions I want to ask the ‘big men’.
- What will have happened if you would have sent ‘a financial midwife’ to my parents those days?
- Do you have ‘financial midwives’ today who can teach me and my mates how to manage?
- Do our farm lands only have value when we are ready to sell them to the rich people?
- To the very very big people in the Government and top banking regulatory institutions, do we in the village really count?
Now we have decided to set up a cooperative of ‘small-scale farmers in villages’. We are looking for financial educators to become ‘our midwives‘. We are also looking for banks that will stop asking for ‘documentations’ just to steal our lands or force us to sell our lands to them as ‘rich men’.
To the people in the very very big World Bank writing ‘The Global Findex Database 2014 Measuring Financial Inclusion around the World’, financial inclusion is not having a mobile money number.
‘Inclusion’ assumes I understand finance. I am included when I know that my susu could have been invested in some fund somewhere over a number of years for me to make it ‘biiiiig’. I would have sacrificed and paid a bit more and waited before cashing at the end of the month.
The fact that I can send my 3 cedis to my susu collector does not mean I am included in the world of finance. In fact, I will wager that more than 50% of the so-called financially included (namely they have a bank account) do not know what the banks are about. They have never seen a relationship manager in their lives. They have never been advised what they can do with their land or money.
To be financially included should mean that:
(1) I have a basic understanding of opening a bank account
(2) I have a bank account
(3) I have a basic understanding of what I can do with my small money during the bumper harvest
(4) I know the value of my farm land and can capitalise on it to invest in my small farm, and
(5) I have a low threshold account that enables me to transfer money with ease, like the mobile money people do,
There are millions of people like us in each country. We are waiting for the financial gurus. Look for us. Start thinking and you will easily find us. I tell you when we harvest we can spend a lot. Come and get some.