- On January 1, 2015
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The little over eleven years I worked with CUA as the General Manager had been very challenging and at the same time rewarding. My appointment came at a time when the Ghana Credit Unions Development Assistance Project (GCUDAP) which I was a Management Advisor engaged by the Canadian Co-operative Association has come to the end in March 2001.
It was a six years bilateral project initiated by the Government of Ghana and the Government of Canada and was implemented by the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) in partnership with the Ghana Co-operative Credit Unions Association (CUA) Limited.
My objectives of accepting the position was to consolidate the gains made by the project and lead the movement to attain 100 per cent operational self-sufficiency which was 60 per cent at the time of assuming the position in July 2002.
This involved how to build sustainable income generating structures, market the credit union system to increase membership and deposits, develop policies and operational procedures and improve the image of credit unions in the country to meet the mission as defined by the Board of Directors of CUA.
Among the achievements made at the end of the eleven years as a General Manager of CUA included CUA attaining operational self-sufficiency of 124 per cent and increasing total assets of CUA from GH₵ 300 thousand to GH₵ 51 million at the end of December 2013. CUA Staff was increased from 31 to 160 and the number of vehicles was increased from 7 to 27. The network activities in the areas of the number of credit unions, deposits, loans, membership witnessed tremendous increases during that period.
The period also witnessed the construction of a multi-purpose Credit Union training Centre at Kasoa which comprises of a hostel with the capacity of hundred (100) self-contained rooms, conference halls with a maximum capacity of 1200 people and restaurant facilities.
All chapters were advised to purchase or construct their own offices to prevent the high cost of rent paid by CUA annually for all the eleven chapters. Almost all Chapters have either completed or have started construction.
The credit union system developed its own Accounting Software (CUSoft) and had already migrated over 140 credit unions to the new software. It is expected that all credit union accounting records will be automated by the end of year 2015.
CUA in partnership with Afric Express successfully introduced a new product –“Local Money transfer services” to over 45 credit unions. It is our wish that more credit unions will join this new product in order to increase services rendered to members.
Finally the Credit Union Deposit Guarantee was launched in December 12th, 2013. This is another booster to the image of the Credit Union System in Ghana which will provide an assurance to members, potential members and the general public that deposits in the credit union system is safe and sound. It means if a credit union runs down or is liquidated members are assured of getting their savings back through the deposit guarantee scheme. This is the first of its kind in Africa for credit unions.
At the credit unions level, due to the current growth at all levels of the credit unions and high competition from other financial providers, managers and employees of credit unions have upgraded their education levels thus increasing professionalism and efficiency in the management of credit unions. Credit unions have been able to introduce new products and services and they are now meetings the financial needs of members more than ever before.
I wish I could improve activities at CUA level much faster but things happened slowly than I had thought due to staff resistance to change.
Some Management staff had built empire around their positions for personal gains. Breaking these behavioural clicks, ego and self-centeredness had to take some time.
I had to work on how to bring the whole movement to work together as one unit in several parts or a single system. This was attained through membership education at chapter and credit union General Meetings and capacity building at all levels of the movement.
My interest also was extended to weaker credit unions especially in the Northern part of the country. Many moribund and weaker credit unions were revived. These made me to travel throughout the whole country including remote areas regularly to promote the credit union concept to reduce poverty among the rural folks.
A new method for credit union operation had to be developed and implemented including performance standards defining minimum capital, profitability, assets quality, liquidity and growth requirements. These and several tools that were developed and implemented took a minimum of five years to be accepted by all credit unions.
Relations with both foreign and local partners were a priority and all their reporting requirements were met on timely basis.
Finally the love for mankind and commitment to human development in relation to poverty reduction at all levels including the youth and women were my goal. The success during my tenure of office as a General Manager of CUA was attributed to these principles. I worked for eleven years without taking any vacation or absenting myself for one day. The strength and the feelings of the presence of God in me and the commitment to assist the poor, less fortunate and the vulnerable in society using the credit union model for over 36 years’ experience generated the power to achieve what all of us are witnessing today. Team work and the power of group thinking did not leave any person within the credit union family out of this success story.
I put more efforts into my job. I approached everybody who came across me with love, talked to over 200,000 people annually to change their lives through effective management of their limited financial resources and setting their priority right. I received a lot of commendation from several people locally and internationally on how I have positively influenced their lives.
I retired from CUA as a happy person. We all have a responsibility and commitment to contribute to improve the lives of thousands of the vulnerable, the weak and less fortunate in society because anything affecting a brother of a sister indirectly affects us all.
Story by Emmanuel Oduro Darko, Former General Manager of Ghana Co-operative Credit Unions Association (CUA)