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Ghana Club 100 participation must be compulsory - Lower Pra CEO

The Ghana Investment Promotion Centre, GIPC, should in the not-too-distant future consider making it compulsory for all registered companies operating in the country, to partake in the prestigious Ghana Club 100 awards.  
The Ghana Club 100 is a yearly official list of the top 100 companies in Ghana. The compilation was first done in 1998 by the GIPC, with the aim of recognizing the best companies to encourage competition and improve company products and services.
But according to the CEO of one of Ghana’s leading Rural Banks, Lower Pra Rural Bank, headquartered in the Shama District of the Western Region, the voluntary submission of returns by companies for participation in the awards, somewhat questions the credibility of the exercise because it may not be a true representation of the best companies in the country.
Mr. Isaac Kwamina Afful, who was speaking to Maxx Business in Takoradi, on the performance of Rural and Community Banks, RCBs, in the 2013 awards, is advocating for a policy to make the participation compulsory.
“When we talk about Ghana Club 100, it means we are looking at the best 100 companies in Ghana. And for you to be a member you have to submit your returns to GIPC. It’s voluntary, so in a situation where we have a lot of good companies not submitting their returns or applying, then I see a big question mark, when we say these are the best hundred companies in Ghana when in actual fact it is voluntary. I am looking at a situation where Government will make it a policy that every company under the criterion, is compelled to submit returns to GIPC, so that when we can boldly say these are the best 100 companies, and not what we have now which is the voluntary submission of returns” he noted.
Mr. Kwamina Afful, whose company placed 41st from a previous 68th position, and the 3rd best rural bank amongst 133 rural RCBs in Ghana, is however convinced that the ranking is done in a transparent manner.
“GIPC has been fair in terms of the ranking because the criterion is always made available to us. In the last three years, there was a flaw in picking our profit. They were looking at profit after tax but we realized they were using our retained earnings, so we quickly wrote to them and the correction has been made. And that is why this time we are 41st so I am sure we will do better in the next rankings. I think it has been very transparent and nothing is dubious because you have all the information” he stated.
In the 2013 Ghana Club 100 rankings, 19 Rural and Community Banks, RCBs, appeared as against 17 traditional commercial banks. Mr. Kwamina Afful says this is an attestation that RCBs, were becoming a force in Ghana’s financial sector.
“ARB Apex Bank has contributed a lot by bringing RCBs together and providing them with all the necessary support to restructure. We believe that in the next five years, Rural Banking will dominate in Ghana. And within the next ten years, Rural Banks will operate as commercial banks but under the same name. We are not doing badly and we believe we can do better” he emphasized.
Mr. Afful however says despite the good showing of RCBs in the 2013 Ghana Club 100 ranking, one cannot compare rural banks to the traditional commercial banks.
“Now Rural Banks are switching to ATM through the intervention of ARB APEX Bank. The clearing of cheques and all that have been streamlined. Rural banking today is entirely different and the future is very bright. RCBs are really doing well but I will not compare a rural bank to a commercial Bank. For instance comparing Lower Pra Rural Bank with Ecobank will be comparing apples with mangoes. But when you take the structures independently, then rural banks are doing very well” he noted.
Lower Pra Rural Bank has consistently made an appearance on the Ghana Club 100 since its participation in 2002. Whiles placing 3rd currently amongst 133 rural banks in the country, it is the 2nd best rural bank in the regional rakings out of thirteen RCBs in the Western Region, having lost the first position on a few occasions.
The bank is among the few indigenous companies in the Western Region that appeared in the 2013 rankings.  Mr. Kwamina Afful says the bank is working assiduously to maintain higher standards at all times. Lower Pra, as at the 2nd quarter of 2013, declared a profit after tax of Ghc1, 746,105.32. Mr. Kwamina Afful also commended other RCBs in the Western region for their performance.
“In the Western Region, we are third as far as Ghana Club 100 is concerned. We use to have the 1st position and sometimes 2nd. The race has been between Lower Pra and Ahantaman, but now we have Fiaseman and Amenfiman also coming into the race. For the year 2012, both in Ghana and in the region, Amenfiman came first, whiles Fiaseman came 2nd in Ghana and in the Western Region, and Lower Pra came 3rd in that order. So it tells you that the first three positions, all the rural banks are from the Western Region. And Lower Pra believes that with the strategies that we have put in place, next year we will do better” he stressed.
Lower Pra Rural Bank also places emphasis on community development in its catchment area, and with fifteen branches in seven districts of the Western Region, namely Shama, Sekondi-Takoradi, Wassa East, Mpohor, Nzema East, Ellembele and Tarkwa Nsuem, the Bank has spent hundreds of Ghana cedis in the areas of education and health in deprived communities.
The Bank’s scholarship scheme, which was approved by its shareholders at its Annual General Meeting in 2003, was targeted at supporting the children of shareholders, but has been expanded to include the children of non-shareholders in secondary, tertiary and vocational institutions. About 300 students have so far benefited with a total amount of Ghc 88, 250 disbursed.

Ebenezer Afany, Radio Maxx Takoradi

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