Accra, Aug. 30, GNA - The Governor of the Bank of Ghana says developing a vibrant financial sector that is capable of harnessing financial resources available for growth and development requires the commitment of all key stakeholders.
Dr Ernest Addison said the Bank would continue to pursue policies and programmes aimed at improving the operational environment to build customer confidence and ensure the stability and soundness of the financial sector.
Dr Addison was speaking at the 40th Anniversary Celebration of the Akuapem Rural Bank at Mamfe Akuapem in the Eastern Region.
He said 40 years of rural banking was remarkable and “I applaud the promoters, past management teams, and the current directors of the bank for this achievement.”
He said rural and community banks continue to be drivers for financial inclusion and socio-economic development in Ghana, saying rural and community banking was conceptualised at a time when access to bank credit for farmers and traders, especially in rural areas, was inadequate.
The Governor said it was envisaged as a unique business model where rural banks thrived based on community empowerment, community ownership and community participation in governance.
He said in 2017, the Bank of Ghana embarked on a clean-up exercise of the financial sector, having identified the prevalence of system risks across several institutions, including some Rural and Community Banks (RCBs).
These included severely impaired capital, low asset quality, liquidity crises, and poor governance structures, which threatened depositors’ funds and undermined efforts aimed at promoting financial inclusion.
He said after the initial clean-up of the banking sector, the Bank collaborated with the ARB Apex Bank to reposition RCBs to better realign with the founding objectives of fostering rural economic development.
“Given the unique nature and expected role of RCBs in the financial sector, the Bank has rolled out some initiatives, including an ongoing review of the Apex Bank model as well as the regulatory and supervisory frameworks to restructure the rural banking concept in Ghana,” he added.
He said to address lingering corporate governance and risk management weaknesses in the rural banking sector, the Bank published the Corporate Governance Directive and Risk Management Guideline for rural and community banks.
The Corporate Governance Directive establishes sound corporate governance principles and best practices within the rural banking sector.
“lt is expected to promote governance systems that will create the environment for individual institutions to undertake their licensed business sustainably, serve the best interest of depositors and other stakeholders and enhance overall corporate performance, accountability, and public trust,” Dr Addison added.
He said the Central Bank had made several improvements to the surveillance and supervision regime with a positive impact on the rural banking sector’s performance.
These were propelled by deploying several tools available to the Bank of Ghana, including regular on-site examinations, improved quarterly performance reviews, management visits, follow-ups and improvement in the approvals and authorisation regime, among others.
He said Central Banks around the globe were exploring the introduction of digital currencies and Ghana was among the leading African countries to enter the pilot phase.
The E-Cedi, which is the first general-purpose Central Bank Digital Currency in Africa, will complement and serve as a digital alternative to physical cash, in line with the Government’s ‘Digital Ghana Agenda’.
Dr Addison said the E-Cedi would be tested in trial phases with banks, payment providers, merchants, consumers and other stakeholders for a nationwide rollout as it would present an opportunity to build a robust, inclusive, competitive and sustainable financial sector.
“We expect that all rural and community banks will collaborate with ARB Apex Bank to leverage the opportunities available with digitisation within the payment ecosystem,” he added.
The Governor said as the country sought to improve the regulatory and operational prospects of rural and community banks, ‘we must admit that a lot of progress has been made within the sector.’
From 30 rural banks in the 1980s, we now have 145 such institutions with a branch network of about 851.
He said the increased number of rural banks were accompanied by increased customer reach, technology deployment, as well as improved delivery of financial services within the local communities.
As of the end of June 30, 2021, the overall profitability of the rural banking sector was positive, and the sector recorded an annual growth of 27.4 percent in total assets, which amounted to GH¢6.5 billion.
Advances, deposits and investments also increased by 23.6, 31.2 and 50.1 percent, respectively.