Local presence is our strong point
Maria Koramoa heads Oikocredit's country office in Accra, Ghana's capital, and is the deputy head of Oikocredit West Africa. As a financial expert, Maria has studied economics, sociology and education in Birmingham and the Cape Coast. She is specialised in microfinance and the development of small and medium-sized enterprises. During a Skype call, Maria shared some insights into her work.
Could you tell us about the work carried out by the Ghana country office?
Maria Koramoa: Our day-to-day business entails examining potential new partnerships, maintaining close contact with organisations we co-operate with and developing an in-depth understanding of their need for capacity building. We currently have 16 partner organisations here in Ghana and a portfolio of € 12 million.
With whom do you co-operate, and how do you reach young people?
Maria Koramoa: We work with organisations operating in the microfinance, agriculture and renewable energy sectors. In agriculture, we focus on cocoa growers. Two microfinance organisations (MFIs) we work with are also active in the cocoa production sector. We reach young people only indirectly, via our partners. By way of example, both MFIs have special programmes which are primarily aimed at farmers but also empower young people so that they can build a livelihood through cocoa farming. The large cocoa buyer FEDCO has a special programme for young people.
In which sectors do you see good prospects for the future?
Maria Koramoa: Cocoa is simply the most important sector here in Ghana. That said, going forward, we can also envisage investing more time in cashew production and the processing of fruit. I believe that the agricultural sector will remain an important sector for Ghana. What people need, more than anything, is training, capital and access to markets. Individual producers alone have no negotiating power. This is why we specifically support cooperatives.
What are the current main difficulties and challenges?
Maria Koramoa: The strong competition between social investors and the fierce competition in terms of interest rates. We have to offer favourable terms that enable our partners to charge their clients the lowest possible interest expenses. At the same time, we want to maintain the quality of our work and supervision. Oikocredit's strength is its close ties to its partners through its local presence, offices and local expertise.
If you had three wishes, what would they be?
Maria Koramoa: My three wishes would be: to launch programmes to support young people, to create job prospects for them, and to empower them to set up their own businesses and become responsible citizens.