In the Kejetia Market in Kumasi, Ghana, there are 10,000 vendors and market stalls covering an area of 36 acres. Dozens of Susu collectors roam the narrow walkways wearing brightly colored coats with many pockets, each with a wad of money inside. Susu collectors provide a way for people to save and access their own money. It is estimated that this is a $160 million industry in Ghana.
Susu collectors come by on a daily basis and apply their commission when the required withdrawal is made at the end of the prearranged period. They charge 3 to 5 percent a month to collect deposited funds, and entrepreneurs receive no interest on their savings. Since the money is deposited into a Susu collector’s account at a local bank, the individual vendors are not recognized as depositors. They can only borrow against their savings if their Susu collector offers such a service, usually at a high interest rate. More than likely, the bank lends their collective money to much larger enterprises than their own.
The alternative for most vendors is to take the money home where it might be stolen or consumed. By saving with the Susu collectors, they know the money will be available when they pay their suppliers. If they cannot restock their wares, they will be out of business. It is a valuable service.
But now there is an even better option. The Opportunity International bank branch is located at the southern end of the Kejetia market. On the outside, it has the appearance of a regular bank, but unlike a regular bank, the poor are welcome inside its doors. This is where many vendors in the market deposit their meager savings, which were deemed unprofitable by other banks in Kumasi. The Opportunity bank also has its own “Susu team” of deposit mobilization officers, who compete for the same daily deposit clients. The difference is that Opportunity does not charge a service fee.
These Opportunity Ghana deposit clients are participating in a savings-and-lending cycle which has mobilized $10 million in deposits. In turn, Opportunity lends this money to those who have small businesses in the Kejetia Market. The vendors’ small savings are now being combined to create jobs and economic opportunity for others in the market and beyond.