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July 2022

Rapid Needs Assessment for Ghana

Executive Summary

The Women Entrepreneurs in Northern Ghana Gain Access to Integrated Services via Agent Networks (WE GAIN) is a 24-month Women and Girls Empowered (WAGE) initiative led by Grameen Foundation USA that aims to increase women entrepreneurs’ access to an integrated package of doorstep financial, business, and gender-based violence (GBV) information they need to succeed in business via digitally enabled female mobile money agents. WE GAIN leverages partnerships with international legal and GBV expert American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), and local civil society organizations (CSOs), including Rural Initiatives for Self-Empowerment Ghana (RISE Ghana), Ghana Developing Communities Association (GDCA), and HealthKeepers Network (HKN). The project will onboard existing community agents from RISE Ghana, GDCA, and HKN—who currently serve their communities with legal literacy services, business education support, and health education and products, respectively—as MTN mobile money agents (known locally as MoMo agents). MTN is one of several mobile network operators (MNOs) in Ghana who offer a range of mobile money services, such as mobile money wallets which facilitate person-to-person payments, among other services.

A Rapid Needs Assessment (RNA) conducted between April and May 2021, which consisted of desk research, focus group discussions (FGDs), and key informant interviews (KIIs) grounded in a Gender and Inclusion Analysis (G&IA) developed at the project inception stage, sought to understand:

  1. The economic, sociocultural, and health barriers, including GBV, that women entrepreneurs and MoMo agents face to starting and growing successful businesses and the opportunities to address those barriers with Digital Financial Services (DFS), business and financial information, GBV support, and health goods that will be provided by the initiative.
  2. The availability of DFS and other service providers and products available in Northern Ghana that WE GAIN’s MoMo agents could offer to their communities.
  3. How a digital platform could respond to the needs of the WE GAIN agents for information, training, and other support.

As part of the RNA process, a workshop was held in July 2021 with project stakeholders to validate and expand upon the findings to support further project design considerations. Between July 2021 and March 2022, gaps were filled through follow-up consultations and additional desk review as the report was being finalized.

In the Northern and Upper East Regions, where the WE GAIN program will be implemented, the results from the RNA and subsequent consultations show that female entrepreneurs broadly are supported by the following enabling factors:

  1. There are several laws, institutions, and policies that create a positive environment for women’s equality and empowerment, facilitate women’s access to financial services, and support GBV referral services. Ghana has an enabling DFS policy environment.
  2. There are a growing number of DFS and digital payments products available on the market with the potential to enhance the incomes and resilience of rural women.
  3. The RNA interviews suggest women’s use of mobile money services locally could be as high as 70 percent compared to 2017 estimates of 40 percent.
  4. Women’s village savings and loans groups (VSLAs), which are widespread in the Northern Regions, can be leveraged to promote WE GAIN agent’s services and messages, but also support agents in liquidity where they themselves are members of VSLAs.
  5. While there is always the risk of conflict and extremism due to refugees fleeing Burkina Faso’s extremist groups or local ethnic land disputes, the risk does not affect day-to-day business decisions for female entrepreneurs.
  6. Queen Mothers, who are local traditional leaders, play active roles in community-level decisions that can directly impact women and could play an advocacy role for the WE GAIN agents.
  7. Given the proposed role that the WE GAIN agents will play in sharing information on existing GBV services and referral pathways in their communities, the research found fairly supportive attitudes among current female MoMo agents and their spouses for informing GBV survivors of existing referral pathways and services. There are also supportive attitudes among implementers and potential participants for engaging men in WE GAIN project activities so long as women also have female-only meeting and learning spaces.

These all serve as important positive enabling factors that will support female entrepreneurs to start, invest in, and grow businesses, including mobile money businesses among the WE GAIN agents.

On the other hand, female entrepreneurs also face numerous sociocultural and structural challenges to starting, investing in, and growing businesses. Some challenges that are outside of the scope of this program to address, yet are important to note, include:

  1. Laws, institutions, and policies designed to support women’s empowerment and provide legal protections for women, particularly with regards to GBV, have very little effect due to limited availability of legal support and women’s low legal literacy. In addition, legal protections are often financially inaccessible to women.
  2. The dominant application of customary law, which is made and upheld by local religious leaders, chiefs, and elders places women in positions subordinate to men, affecting their land ownership, ability to generate income, and limiting their access to financial services.
  3. Female entrepreneurs, particularly married entrepreneurs, have heavy labor burdens, limited mobility and decision-making power, and need for spousal (or other gatekeepers’) permission and support to engage in economic activities.
  4. Women face limited access to finance, particularly business credit, due to long distances to reach financial institutions, collateral and formal identification requirements, small loan sizes, and terms that do not meet women’s needs.
  5. Limited access to business inputs and technical know-how, digital and alphanumeric illiteracy, reliance on business credit by customers, shocks to the business, such as health and limited family planning options, can all constrain women’s investment and success in business.
  6. Women face specific barriers to entry and challenges with succeeding as MoMo agents. These include challenges with business registration, raising startup capital for their business, liquidity (physical cash flow), security issues, digital fraud, and general network instability that compound the challenges experienced by female entrepreneurs broadly.
  7. Crime is the most common day-to-day threat that female entrepreneurs face, resulting in coping strategies such as closing their businesses early to avoid theft, pickpocketing, etc.
  8. Exposure to GBV, primarily in the form of economic violence, is considered a private affair and results in few women seeking justice and relying on family or traditional leaders for support.
  9. Referral networks for supporting GBV survivors are accessible primarily in district capitals and are difficult to reach and access financially for rural communities.
  10. There is variability in knowledge among women and men regarding the steps a GBV survivor should take to seek support. Where local and international organizations have invested time in communities regarding GBV or referral network strengthening, there is more knowledge.

Important implications of these opportunities and barriers and recommendations for WE GAIN include:

  1. Engaging local religious leaders, chiefs, elders, Queen Mothers, and WE GAIN agent spouses to ensure their buy-in and support of the initiative’s goals and objectives. Male engagement, however, should follow female-only activities.
  2. Supporting WE GAIN agents to overcome challenges related to startup capital, business registration, and crime/theft to ensure the success of their businesses.
  3. Training WE GAIN agents in skills related to operating a successful mobile money business includes, but is not limited to, how to complete common mobile money transactions, good liquidity management, marketing, safety and security, and detecting and preventing mobile money fraud.
  4. Offering online/offline technologies that the WE GAIN agents can use for accessing training and information, and a flexible education approach that responds to their different knowledge and skill sets and the varying contexts in which they will work.
  5. Identifying specific DFS and non-DFS products with the potential to improve women entrepreneurs’ business growth and resilience, and promoting or cross-selling these through WE GAIN agents.
  6. Supporting WE GAIN agents to promote MTN’s existing services, such as the mobile money wallet and their digital savings, loans, insurance, and utility payment services and to deliver these to VSLAs and other women’s groups.
  7. Educating WE GAIN customers on basic digital financial literacy topics, including the benefits of DFS, products available on the MTN platform, how to troubleshoot common problems, and how to detect and respond to mobile money fraud.
  8. Aligning messaging, financial or non-financial products, and timing of messages to the nature of female entrepreneurs’ agricultural businesses.
  9. Equipping WE GAIN agents (and their spouses, if feasible) to understand what they can and cannot do or say regarding GBV in order to mitigate any potential negative consequences from the sharing of this information to either the agent or the person in need of information and to understand which local, trusted actors can support GBV survivors.
  10. Ensuring that messaging regarding GBV covers economic violence and its signs and consequences as very few people consider this violence, as well as survivors’ rights and what they should expect when seeking GBV support services from existing, local referral actors. 

Read the Report

The statements and analysis contained in the report “Rapid Needs Assessment and Gender and Inclusion Analysis for Ghana” are the work of the Women and Girls Empowered (WAGE) consortium, led by the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) in close partnership with the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), Grameen Foundation USA, and Search for Common Ground (Search). The Women Entrepreneurs in Northern Ghana Gain Access to Integrated services via Agent Networks (WE GAIN) program is an initiative of the WAGE consortium. The Board of Governors of the American Bar Association (ABA) has neither reviewed nor sanctioned its content. Accordingly, the views expressed in the report should not be construed as representing the policy of the ABA. Furthermore, nothing contained in this report is to be considered rendering legal advice for specific cases, and readers are responsible for obtaining such advice from their own legal counsel.

The report was prepared by Barrett Redmond from the University of California, Berkeley and Bobbi Gray, Francis Arthur, Alfred Yeboah, and Bindi Jhaveri from Grameen Foundation USA (Grameen) and integrates findings from focus group discussions (FGDs) and key informant interviews (KIIs) completed by HealthKeepers Network (HKN), Ghana Developing Communities Association (GDCA), and Rural Initiatives for Self-Empowerment Ghana (RISE Ghana), and a gender and inclusion analysis (G&IA) prepared at the proposal stage. Bobbi Gray of Grameen Foundation and Tanyel Taysi, Abby Attia, and Muthoni KamuyuOjuolo of the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) oversaw the thorough review and editing of this report.

WAGE is thankful to Awal Ahmed Kariama and Jaw-haratu Amadu of RISE Ghana, Osman Abdel-Rahman, Abdallah Mohammed, Suweidu Abdulai, and Saani Imoro of GDCA, Daniel Mensah and Patience Owusu of HKN for their support in conducting the KIIs and FGDs for this research.

WE GAIN also appreciates the time and assistance rendered by individuals who participated in the assessment as interviewees, FGD participants, including women entrepreneurs, mobile money agents, and representatives from other stakeholders including non-government and government organizations. Last but not least, WAGE wishes to express its gratitude to the U.S. Department of State Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues (S/GWI) for funding this assessment as well as the WE GAIN initiative.

All opinions, findings, and conclusions stated herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the United States Government, WAGE, or any members of the WAGE consortium.

About WAGE

Women and Girls Empowered (WAGE) is a global consortium to advance the status of women and girls, led by the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) in close partnership with the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), Grameen Foundation, and Search for Common Ground (Search). WAGE works to strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations (CSOs) and private sector organizations (PSOs) in target countries to improve the prevention of and response to gender-based violence; advance the women, peace and security agenda; and support women’s economic empowerment. In this context, WAGE provides direct assistance to women and girls, including information, resources, and services they need to succeed as active and equal participants in the global economy and public life. WAGE also engages in collaborative research and learning to build a body of evidence on relevant promising practices in these thematic areas. To account for the deeply interconnected nature of women’s and girls’ experiences, WAGE’s initiatives employ approaches that are highly collaborative, integrated, and inclusive. WAGE is funded by the U.S. Department of State Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues.