IT is a Ghanaian non-profit organisation incorporated as a company limited by guarantee with the aim of pioneering ethical micro-finance in Ghana. The organisation is headquartered in Accra, and currently operates in poor; urban, peri-urban, and rural communities in Greater Accra and Central Regions of Ghana.
The policy of IT emphasises the extension of small working capital and micro start-up loans ranging from GHS50 ($25) to GHS1500 ($750), to petty traders, head pan traders, table top businesses, hawkers, small store/shop operators, market women, amongst others that are unbanked/under-banked and have limited or no access to credit from commercial banks and other formal financial institutions due to lack of assets to use as collateral in particular, and the informal nature of their activities. WIT’s concern is to meet the working capital needs of the poor, marginalized and vulnerable groups, particularly women within this defined population. We are committed to serving women in particular not just because informal commerce in the country is predominately controlled by women, but more importantly because women are considered to be a great source of meeting family needs, serious, reliable, and honest. It is generally accepted, at least in the Ghanaian context, that women are more likely to advance the needs of their children, including spending their increased income on health care and education for their families.
The coming into being of WIT was induced by some disturbing phenomenon in the micro-finance industry. While the plethora of Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs) in the country have served to extend credit to the informal micro enterprise sector, the lending practices and approaches of some of these MFIs leaves much to be desired. Some of these practices, which include charging of usurious APR ranging between 80% – 120%; requirement of prohibitive collateral; unrealistic covenants in loan contracts; draconian deposit requirement and daily/weekly collection system, in most cases have aggravated the plight of the poor borrowers instead of alleviating their poverty. Most poor borrowers have now become ‘captive’ dependant clients of some micro-finance providers simply because the lending practices of the lenders deprive them of making the necessary savings needed to make them wean themselves off the lenders and become independent. Some MFIs even take the hard earned savings of prospective and extant poor borrowers without lending to them, and do not refund to them their savings either. The above phenomenon has thus compounded the cycle of poverty of most poor borrowers.
IT therefore came into the industry with the agenda of helping break the manner with which some players have capitalised on the desperation of vulnerable poor traders for working capital to exploit them. Our goal of helping the poor, vulnerable and marginalized, particularly women traders break the cycle of exploitive, extortionate lending is to contribute to the generation of economic growth in a way that creates sustainable, reduction in poverty and improve their economic state.
With more than 500 active clients (with at least 2 dependent children per client) and investment of GHS400,000 ($200,000) in just about 2years of IT’s existence, our beneficiaries have been able to expand their businesses, feed their children with three square meals a day and send their children to school through small loans, training, and savings. We are focused on positively affecting the lives of many more vulnerable people, particularly women (at least 5000) by scaling up nationwide coverage with an investment of GHS3m ($1.5m).
As an advocate for the economic well-being of the vulnerable, particularly women, IT also considers it as demonstrating investment to positive effect by deploying resources to helping to address one of the development challenges of our time: energy poverty – the lack of access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable clean cooking fuels and equipment – the consequences of which affect mostly women and children. Women and children are noted to suffer most from the consequence of indoor air pollution – respiratory and lung infections – due to the reliance on biomass for cooking. We help to address this challenge by educating the women about the dangers of inefficient firewood and other biomass cooking systems, and advancing loans to them to procure efficient cooking stoves and gas cylinders.