The Managing Director of ARB Apex Bank Limited, Mr. Kojo Mattah has appealed to customers of rural banks to fulfil their loan repayment obligations to keep the banks in business to facilitate rural development.

Mr. Mattah stated this in a speech read on his behalf by the Accra Branch Manager of the ARB Apex Bank Limited, Miss Halima Oboshie Torto at the 4th Annual General Meeting of the Microfin Rural Bank Limited held at Gomoa Pomadze in the Central Region.

Mr. Mattah asked rural banks to take steps in all areas of operations to help maintain strong standing in the banking industry.

He was happy that the exceptional performance of Microfin Rural Bank Limited in 2016 placed the bank First on regional basis in the Central Region and 12th on national basis per the Apex Bank RCBs Efficiency Monitoring Ranking as at June 2017.

Mr. Mattah described as refreshing how Microfin Rural Bank Limited, even though a "toddler", looks highly promising.

“You started operating as a "Fair bank in 2014, per the RCBs' Efficiency Monitoring Ranking by the ARB Apex Bank. You then ranked "Satisfactory" in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Through dedication and hard work, you have started the year 2017 as a "strong" bank. This is by no means a remarkable achievement and I urge you to maintain the high standards you have set for yourselves,” he stated.

The Chairman of the Board of Directors of Microfin Rural Bank Limited, Dr. Victor Antwi's report which was presented by the Board Secretary, Mr. Kwabena Owusu-Mensah indicated that the bank posted profits of GH₵231,419 signifying a growth of 62% from that of the previous year. Interest Income recorded a growth of 53% whilst total net income increased by 48% in 2016. The bank’s total operating expenses also increased by 47%, while its total assets increased from GH₵4,764,431 in 2015 to Gh₵6,607,819 recording a growth of 39%.

The bank’s stated capital increased from GH₵719,488 in 2015 to GH₵800,859 in 2016 appreciating by 11%. The Chairman therefore, entreated all shareholders to purchase more shares to enable Microfin Rural Bank Limited to meet the GH₵1,000,000 new minimum capital requirement of the Bank of Ghana before the 31st December, 2017 deadline.

On Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), the Chairman revealed that Microfin Rural Bank Limited spent GH₵16,651 on donations and charitable contributions towards socio-economic activities in the communities within its operational area.

These included 20 knapsacks for the Best Farmers in Gomoa East and Mfantsiman Districts for the 2016 National Farmers Day Celebration and donations to Chiefs for traditional festivals in the bank's catchment areas.

The Chairman indicated that the bank will also collaborate with interested Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to offer educational scholarships to brilliant but needy students, in support of the development of quality human resource base within the surrounding communities.

According to the Chairman’s report, the Bank has introduced Cocoa Farmers loan Products dubbed AKUSIKA to members of linked Savings Groups in cocoa farming communities. Under the AKUSIKA product, which is currently being piloted in Assin and Agona Abodom areas, an amount of GH₵68,500 has been disbursed to 142 clients in the form of agricultural inputs and working capital. In view of the success shown so far by the AKUSIKA product, there are plans to scale-up, so that Cocoa Farmers in other communities can access agricultural-inputs, working capital and agronomic services.

The Chairman announced that Microfin Rural Bank Limited has collaborated with some organisations to deepen financial inclusion and to meet the needs of its clientele. They include Rural Enterprise Programme (REP), SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, USAID Financing Ghanaian Agriculture Project (USAID FinGAP) and Interpay Africa.

In an interview with GBCONLINE, a Board Member and Director of Microfin Rural Bank Limited, Mr. Ishmael Kwesi Otchere said because they are mindful of the stiff competition in the banking sector, they will keep developing innovative products for clients in the catchment area.

Mr. Otchere welcomed the decision by the Bank of Ghana to review the ARB Apex Bank Regulations, 2006, L.I 1825 and the Specialized Deposit-Taking Institution Act, 2016, Act 930. He described the review as long overdue, arguing that the current L.I itself actually limits rural banks and even the ARB APEX Bank Limited from engaging in certain transactions. “So this is a fundamental structural problem that has to be addressed where the L.I. must be actually restructured to reflect reality of today's banking” he added.

Mr.Otchere urged government to let Rural Banks play a pivotal role in the One District One Factory initiative, by channelling funds for the project through such banks.