Before the late 1970s, rural dwellers in Ghana had almost no access to institutional credit for farm and nonfarm activities, and in many rural communities, secure, safe, and convenient savings and payment facilities hardly existed. In response to this situation, the Government of Ghana took several measures to increase access to credit in rural areas, including facilitating the establishment of rural and community banks (RCBs). This brief discusses the history of RCBs, their business model, their services, and their financial performance. It then draws some lessons relevant for others involved in or planning similar initiatives. As a network, RCBs are the largest providers of formal financial services in Ghana’s rural areas. By the end of 2008, Ghana had 127 RCBs with a total 584 service outlets, representing about half of the total banking outlets in the country. The RCB network reaches about 2.8 million depositors and 680,000 borrowers. Although the service delivery performance of the RCB network has been strong, its financial performance has been mixed. The profitability and net worth of the network have grown, but the financial performance of some members has been poor, and a small number are insolvent.
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