Day 3

Friday, March 16, 2012

On Tuesday we made business visits to Kingsbridge Microfinance and the Ghana Cocoa Board. First we visited Kingsbridge, located in the middle of a poor area in Accra. Kingsbridge has a partnership with the Kelley School of Business. The CEO, Mannaseh Portuophy, was kind enough to host us in his office as we learned about microfinancing as it pertains to Ghana. For example, most lower-class Ghanaians engage in informal banking known as "susu collection." The basic concept of susu is that everyday you give the susu collector the money you've made and at the end of the week or month he will return your lump sum, minus a fee he takes out for holding your money. No formal banks are involved and it's not guaranteed the collector will return your money. Mannaseh has been working with the susu collectors to deposit the money they collect into actual bank accounts so it can accrue interest. After answering all of our questions and purchasing soda for everyone, Mannaseh took us down to the local market to meet some of the people that Kingsbridge has given loans too. And when I say local I mean we saw men butchering chickens on the side of the street, live crabs, and lots of dead fish that had been cooked to a crisp. Honestly I was pretty grossed out by some of the things I saw and the general condition of the market and had a hard time keeping a poker face. The market was off the main highway down a bunch of dirt roads, so our big tour bus attracted a lot of attention. It's still really uncomfortable being stared at and watching heads turn everywhere we go.

After lunch at a well air-conditioned restaurant and being followed by 20 Ghanaian men trying to sell us bracelets outside our bus (they ask your name as you get off the bus then when you get back on they try giving you a bracelet with your name woven into it), we braved crazy Accra traffic to head downtown to the Cocoa Board, the organization that controls the entire Ghanaian cocoa industry. We met with Cocoa management in one of their boardrooms. Unfortunately the room was on the 4th floor and the air conditioning was broken (this seems to be common in Ghana) despite temperatures in the 90s. All of us were melting in our coolest business casual clothes, though the Ghanaians were all wearing business suits! The Cocoa Board controls every facet of the cocoa bean supply chain and even fixes the price for cocoa, so it's basically a cartel and is really shady. One of the board men mentioned how the cocoa market wasn't very competitive...well no wonder, that's what happens in a monopolized industry. In addition they check 100% of the cocoa beans to ensure 100% quality, which is horribly inefficient and expensive. We had lots of questions about their business practices as good Kelley students :) They were gracious hosts and gifted us with 100% Ghanaian cocoa bars. It was a long, hot day so we hit the pool when we got back to the hotel.

Other things I saw being sold in the road: bras, passports (!!!!), windshield wiper blades, and plungers. Most of the roadside shops are just old shipping containers and have religious named like "Jesus is Lord" and "Blessed Fashions" or "God's Way Building Materials" and "Love of Holy Spirit Fast Food."

With the CEO of Kingsbridge Microfinance in a local market


Lisa said...

Sounds like you had an awesome time!!!

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