Agnes Nti, a 49-year old divorced mother of five children and the sole breadwinner, has been trading in condiments and tinned pureed tomatoes in the Bantama market in Kumasi, Ghana for the past ten years. On the Social Capital Credit program piloted in the Bantama Market by Asia Initiatives (AI) in partnership with the Millennium Cities Initiatives (MCI) of Columbia University in New York, Agnes says:
“This initiative is a godsend because I received free health screening and tips on how to safeguard my health in addition to business training sessions that has helped me to understand how to better manage my business and make more profit. The best of all is this collateral free loan I could get based upon the SoCCs I earned, which is the first of its kind in this market.”
In Bantama, in order to incentivize health check ups and other socially beneficial behaviour, MCI led by the very capable regional coordinator Abenaa Akuamoa-Boateng, piloted AI’s innovative community currency called Social Capital Currency (SoCCs). For every health screening received or another tasks on the SoCCs menu such as keeping the market clean, the women received “SoCCs Abosoc”.
SoCCs Abosoc (pronounced absos), was selected by the women as the localized name for SoCCs; abosoc is a belt people tie around their waste when they start a big job. Each woman in the program could redeem the SoCCs Abosoc for rewards, which included business development sessions organised by MCI’s partner NGO, Self-Help Ghana (SHG). In addition to the training, SHG disbursed a total of twenty-five thousand Ghana cedis as small loans with an interest rate of 30% and no collateral to 14 out of the 16 SoCCs groups.
Prior to introduction of AI’s SoCCs, Agnes had borrowed from two microfinance companies that give loans at up to 43% interest, which wiped out her profits. SoCCs driven health screening and SHG’s loans with flexible payment terms emboldened Agnes to add a second table of local condiments, providing her a greater variety of products and more money from customers. With this addition, Agnes’ shop has become a one-stop-shop for her customers, who can now purchase all the needed condiments for their meals. Agnes calls this second table her ‘Good luck table’ as she is reaping more returns from the new additions than from the original tin tomatoes. The health checks have been an added bonus as she goes to check her blood pressure every month. In that process, she learned that she has hypertension and she is receiving treatment from the clinic’s doctor at Suntreso”.
At the time of this writing, groups made up of between three to five women have been established with more on the way. Agnes is the leader of the “Nyame bekyere” group, one of the twenty-nine SoCCs women’s groups in the Bantama market in Kumasi of the Ashanti region in Ghana. She has been instrumental in spreading the word about SoCCs and getting a lot more women to come for the health checks and join the SoCCs Abosoc project.
As I wrap up, I want to share that Agnes’s story is not unique. Beatrice Abena Mansah is also a single mother with two children in school. She sells cooking oil in the market and has been trading at the Bantama market for the past four years. Prior to becoming involved with the “Nyame Nti, Yempa aba “SoCCs group, Beatrice was receiving the oil on credit from her suppliers and paying for it after selling. This reduced her profits greatly as she could not hold any meaningful stocks and was virtually just making sales for her creditors. With the loan received from GSH by leveraging the earned SoCCs, she now makes at least GHs10 where she was originally getting GHs3.
To learn more about SoCCs and how with other partners Asia Initiatives is changing the way development projects empower the under-resourced, visit: http://www.asiainitiatives.org/our-work/soccs-initiatives/
– Surkhab Peerzada, MPH, Jr. Board Member.
About SoCCs: The development multiplier
SoCCs or Social Capital Credits is a virtual system of exchange for social good that combines the best practices of carbon credits, MPesa, and eBay. This breakthrough concept is currently being tested in pilot sites in India, Ghana and Costa Rica. It aims to empower communities to improve their own lives, while leveraging the multiplier effect of each development dollar.