I realized the other day that most of my posts have been about locations I’ve travelled to or about Ghanaian culture. While I hope you find that interesting, one of my intentions for this blog was to discuss working for a microfinance institution. So I’ve finally taken the time to write about CRAN and what my daily schedule is like!
Here’s a bit about Christian Rural Aid Network (CRAN):
- CRAN is a rural development NGO established in 1993.
- CRAN’s microfinance program was created in 1998, but only became a categorized as a MFI and a Financial NGO in 2008.
- It is headquartered in Cape Coast in the Central Region of Ghana.
- It operates throughout Ghana, but its main banks unit are in:Abura (where I live), Takoradi, Cape Coast, Elmina, Twifo Praso, and Hohoe.
I work in the microfinance department of CRAN, or Christian Rural Aid Network. In particular, I work in the Kiva office. According to CRAN, the organizational vision for the microfinance operations is “to achieve an improved and sustained quality of life for the majority of the productive rural and peripheral-urban poor in the Ghanaian society through the instrument of microfinance (in combination with other instruments), as a basis for attaining and sustaining social justice.” So how does my work fit into that vision? (For a refresher on microfinance, read this)
CRAN Microfinance has three main products: individual loans, group ‘susu’ loans, and its Credit with Education Program (CwE). The loans I work with usually fall under the CwE program, though I do occasionally file some individual loans. CwE is a village banking approach where CRAN enters into a community and introduces the service to the community members. Those interested are asked to form solidarity group of 4 to 6 members, and several solidarity groups are put together to get a bigger group called credit association. CwE uses a mutual guarantee system that holds group members liable if a member defaults.
Generally, CwE is geared towards women in rural areas with little access to financial services. As the name suggests, financial education courses are given to members before their loans are disbursed. After disbursement, groups host weekly meetings to make their repayments and discuss any issues relating to their businesses.
According to some outdated report, CRAN has given out loans to more than 20,000 clients. But where does the money come from? That’s where I come in! Our CwE funds come from Kiva, an organization based in San Francisco. It’s pretty much the microfinance version of crowd funding. People from all over the world can lend small amounts of money to borrowers in developing countries. Lenders don’t receive interest, but are rewarded with the satisfaction of helping another human being better their lives.
The first aspect of my internship is to create profiles of borrower to upload to the Kiva website. I receive a handwritten packet from loan officers detailing the personal and business information of person in a particular credit association. From there, I use a data program called Loan Performer to acquire an ID number for each client and other crucial information. I next craft a story about each borrower that explains why he/she needs the loan and his/her intentions for the profits. After that, it’s as simple as uploading all of the data I gathered, the story, and picture to the Kiva website. If Kiva administrators approve of the profile, the loan is now “open” and can start raising funds.
So far, I’ve uploaded more than 300 loans to Kiva. While the work can be tedious, especially with the unreliable Internet and the frustratingly slow computers, it is absolutely crucial to CRAN’s operations. Without the funds from Kiva, CRAN Microfinance could not afford to give out loans.
The second aspect of my position is creating journals. Journals are updates that we upload to Kiva, so that lenders can track the progress of the borrowers. So I travel to the communities with my supervisor, Cecilia, as a translator. We then interview each borrower to see how their lives and businesses have been affected by the loan. This is easily my favorite part of my job. After uploading so many loans, I’ve become desensitized to the impact of these loans. Talking to these women (and a couple men) reminds me of how real their hopes and struggles are. I am able to see the real effects that a small amount of money can have on their lives. School fees can be paid, bellies can be filled, and housing can be acquired. Yes, I’ve talked to several women who have defaulted on their loan and are worse off. On the whole, I’ve been able to witness the beauty of microfinance.
In the near future, my job description is going to expand. Cecilia and I had a long chat the other day about other aspects of CRAN that I want to experience. I want to learn more about how finances are handled in Ghana, so I am going to be shadowing the CFO of CRAN. I also want to visit a community during the loan disbursements. Lastly, I want to experience the education side of CwE, so Cecilia is trying to arrange for me to get involved with the classes. Hopefully everything works out, and I’ll have a lot more information to share!