Rural banks were first established in Ghana in 1976 with the mandate to provide banking services to the rural population, provide credit facilities to small-scale farmers and businesses and to generally complement Governments effort at addressing developmental challenges.
Currently there are about 140 licensed Rural and Community Banks across the regions of Ghana supervised by the clearing bank ARB Apex Bank under the regulation of the Bank of Ghana, which owns shares in the banks.
It is very important to recognize that since the establishment of rural banks in the country, they have not only played an important role in the development of the financial services sector of Ghana, but have also contributed significantly to the lives of people in various communities in their catchment areas.
One of such Banks which has contributed significantly to the advancement of the socio-economic development of the country is the Builsa Community Bank Limited (BUCO- Bank) found in the Upper East Region.
The bank, which begun in 1996, has earned an enviable record. Modest beginning of one branch, the bank had grown to four branches located in the Bolgatanga Municipality, Sandema in the Builsa North and Fumbisi in the Builsa South District all in the Upper East Region and Yagba in the Mamprugu Maudori District of the Northern Region with staff strength of fifty six.
The Bank which is one of the fastest growing rural banks in the country with cheaper financial solution in its operational areas and has considerable client retention is owned by approximately 1,500 made up of individuals, groups and associations. It has about 50,000 clients and just like any Rural Bank, the Bank is regulated by the Bank of Ghana (BOG) and also supervised by the ARB Apex Bank.
The Bank has a policy of using five per cent of its net profit every year to cater for community development .Key among the sectors it had supported since its operations in 20 years are Education, Health, Agriculture, Security.
Contributions of the Rural Bank to Education
In view of the fact that education is key to development, the sector is bedevilled with myriad of challenges particularly infrastructure deficit and financial constraints preventing some brilliant students from having secondary and tertiary education.
To help complement government's efforts to address the challenges confronting the education sector, the BUKO -Bank provided Scholarships to over 50 brilliants but needy students at the secondary and tertiary levels in its catchment areas, supported various Senior High Schools financially during inter-houses and Inter-Schools sports and athletics competitions as well as supported the District Education Service with the provision of text books and learning materials for the Junior and Senior High Schools in the District and provided sponsorship package for the Girl-Child Education all totalling over 200,000 Ghana cedis
Furthermore, the Bank paid the registration and renewals of over 300 National Health Insurance beneficiaries within the Builsa north and South Districts, supported the" You and Your Health Radio Programmes", organized by the Builsa Nurses Association of the two Districts on Radio Builsa network.
It has also over the years been providing support to the annual outreach surgery programme conducted by the Catholic Health Mission as well as supports HIV/AID Campaigns in the Upper East Region. The Banks also supported the education of women on good personal hygiene and good nutrition practices in the two Districts and provided a cash donation to the victims of the 3rd June 2015 twin flood and fire outbreak that hit Accra.
The Bank's contributions to Agriculture Sector
Agriculture is the backbone of Ghana economy because apart from the sector serving as a source of foreign exchange for the country, the sector serves as a source of employment for the vast majority of people. For example, in the Upper East Region, the major economic activity is farming. According to the Ghana Statistical Service, Agriculture currently contributes over 20 per cent to the GDP of Ghana.
In spite of the importance of the sector, it is faced with many problems such as access to credit for smallholder farmers, marketing, post-harvest losses, modern irrigation facilities, and good feeder roads to help in transporting produce among others.
The BUKO -Bank provides farmer credit loans which are meant to assist farmers in accessing funds to expand their farming activities. The Bank is noted for its outstanding when it comes to providing credit to the agriculture sector, especially small-scale farmers to expand and increase their yields and income. This has helped the beneficiary farmers to increase their yield and also improved their livelihoods.
Additionally, the bank annually donates to the Upper East Regional Coordinating Council, the Builsa North and South Districts, Bolgatanga Municipal towards the celebrations of farmers' day. It further provided eight large water pumping machines to some selected Farmer Based Organizations in the catchment areas under the USAID –Finger Grants Programme.
The Bank's contributions to Government revenue
The government of Ghana needs revenue to meet recurrent expenditure as well as capital expenditure. Rural banks across the country pay corporate tax out of their profit, the current rate being eight per cent. Apart from the eight per cent tax that rural banks pay on their profit, employees who work at the various rural banks across the country also pay income tax to government.
According to the 2014 Efficiency Monitoring Unit of Apex Bank Report, as at December 2014 there were 141 Rural and Community Banks in Ghana and government collects much tax revenue from them for its developmental projects. The BUKO-Bank had lived to this expectation.
The Bank's contribution to Employment creation and Security
Apart from employment creation, the Bank over years, has also been contributing to beef up security situation in its operational areas. For instance it supported the construction of the Sandema Police station and provided the facility with a printer , provided funds for the repairs of the vehicle of Fumbisi Police Station for patrols in the Builsa South District and also supported the rehabilitation of the Fumbisi police station as well as provided a motorbike for the newly Yagba Police Station.
Due to the Bank's significant contributions to national development , it was declared as a model bank for all Rural and Community Banks in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions at the just ended 20th Anniversary held at Sandema in the Builsa District of the Upper East Region.
Also the Bank for the past twenty years in its operations had performed creditable and was also rated strong by the Efficiency Monitoring Unit of Apex Bank in 2015 .It was the only rural bank in the Upper East Region that was able to meet the mandatory minimum stated capital of 500,000.00 Ghana cedis for 2016.
Due it success story , it had received several Regional and National awards from the Association of Rural Banks of Ghana, ARB Apex Bank Limited and BOG. For instance the Bank had never recorded any losses in its twenty years of operations and consistently paid dividends to its shareholders since 2008 till date.
The Regional Manager of the Apex Bank, Mr Zinzendorf Pascal Nkulenu and the President of the Upper East Chapter of Association of Rural Bank, Alhaji Abdul-Sharif Adams, who jointly lauded the bank for its remarkable achievement, urged other Rural Community banks in the three Northern Regions who are facing operational and administrative challenges to consult the BUCO- Bank to learn from its good initiatives.
Good corporate governance and success story of the Bank
Speaking to the GNA, the General Manager of the BUKO Bank LTD, Mr Awudu Hayatudeen, attributed the success story of the Bank to Good Corporate Governance jointly initiated by the Board of Directors and the Management of the Bank.
He explained that unlike some Banks where Board of Directors interfere unnecessarily in their operations, it was not so with the BUKO- Bank. He indicated that there are clear distinctions of roles between the Board of Directors and the Management of the Bank.
"The secret behind the success story of the BUKO- Bank hinges on its Corporate Values of compliance with all statutes and regulations in the country, unbiased in dealing with stakeholders, service of exceptional quality in a cost –effective and timely manner, teamwork and mutual respect.
This Bank places premium on the training of its human capital. It had sponsored 25 staff members to study diploma , degrees and post graduate programmes in Commerce and Accounting , Banking , Finance and Law as well as other professional banking training", the General Manager disclosed.
The Manger who also attributed the bank's success story to good products of the bank , mentioned the products as Saving Account, Current Account, Fixed Deposits, Salaried Workers Loans, individual and Commercial Loans, Overdraft, Agribusiness Loans, Solar Loans, Micro –finance loans, Money
Transfer Services , Ezwich Service among others
Vision and Mission
The Manager stated the vision of the bank is to be a strong life changing financial institution that guarantees financial comfort, confidence and independence of stakeholders and the mission is to provide excellence financial services that continuously increase shareholders value by employing and maintaining competent and motivated workforce whose output exceeds the expectations of customers and better serve the community.
The Upper East Regional Minister, Mr Albert Abongo, did not mince words when he joined others to pay tribute to Bank for its contribution to national development. The success story of the BUCO- Bank must be emulated by other Banks.