Ghana to host conference on consumer protection in Africa

More than 250 policy makers, regulators, journalists and representatives from financial institutions and their apex organizations, the education sector, consumer protection agencies, and development partners from over 30 countries will participate in an international conference scheduled for 8 to 9 September 2009 in Accra. The conference would be hosted in collaboration with the Partnership for Making Finance Work for Africa (MFW4A on the theme “Promoting Financial Capability and Consumer Protection – A Step Forward Towards Financial Inclusion in Africa.” A statement from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning issued in Accra on Thursday, quoted Dr Kwabena Duffuor, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning saying” Promoting financial capability is about raising awareness, promoting knowledge, building trust, and changing behaviour." "And it is not limited to educating consumers and enabling them to take informed decisions on saving, loan and investment products. Additionally, management and staff of financial institutions need to be trained to become more responsive to the needs of their clients, and supervisors need the capacity to protect the consumers against fraud and other bad business practices." It is being organised against the background that low-income households in Africa often have limited access to demand-oriented and affordable financial services. They include savings, loans, and insurance, which means that they have to revert to more expensive and less secure traditional alternatives of saving and borrowing and remain vulnerable to adverse shocks. Research has shown that in order to strengthen financial institutions in Africa, there is the need to promote financial capability, to empower people to be capable of managing their financial assets and liabilities and to better understand their rights and responsibilities vis-a-vis financial institutions. However, strengthening the financial capability of the population is not sufficient since governments also have a role to play in protecting consumers by ensuring that financial institutions apply recognized standards and suitable codes of conducts. In order to create sustainable 'win-win situations' in this long-run, it is believed that financial capability measures need to go hand in hand with responsible, transparent and reliable services provided by financial institutions. In moderated regional and national working groups, participants will have the chance to develop ideas and proposals as to what they think should be done in their country or region to improve financial capability. A panel on social marketing will show films and discuss which marketing channels can be used best to address the different target groups of financial capability campaigns. The Government of Ghana, together with the Ghana Microfinance Institutions Network (GHAMFIN), will hold as a prelude to the conference, a day’s Pre-Conference on "Promoting Financial Capability and Consumer Protection in Ghana" on September 7, 2009. According to Mr Seth Terkper, Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, "Financial capability is very high on the political agenda of the Government.” He said "Ghana is one of the first countries in Africa that has developed and started to implement a National Strategy for Financial Literacy and Consumer Protection in the Microfinance Sector". Over the past two years, “financial literacy road shows” have been carried out in all 10 regions of Ghana, easy-to-understand educational materials have been developed and distributed, high school quizzes have been organized, and radio programs on saving and responsible borrowing as well as television sitcoms on insurance have been telecast. All activities will culminate at the Ghana Financial Literacy Week, which will take place from 28 September 28 to October 3, 2009. Against this background, over 150 Ghanaian and international financial sector champions from the public sector and the financial sector as well as representatives from academia, consumer protection agencies, non-governmental organizations and development partners will discuss and evaluate whether "Ghana is on track and set the right priorities in financial capability and consumer protection". Additionally, innovative topics such as "Integrating Financial Capability into High Schools" and "Promoting Financial Capability through Mass Media" will be addressed.