Author Archives: mfw4ghana
Ulrich Köhler / Sarah Mersch
Low income earners in Ghana, such as traders, make daily savings of their income with certain individuals in trust. Their daily deposits depends on how much they can afford, but should be consistent for, at least, a month before withdrawal. This daily money saving is called SUSU in Ghana. Under this scheme, clients do not earn any interest on their deposits, neither can they access loans.
Instead of earning interest, they lose a day’s deposit to the collector for his services. To make the transaction transparent, the collector gives out a membership card to each client in which each deposit is recorded. They make the deposit either in his kiosk or during his rounds to their selling places. The risky aspect of the deal is that there are normally no legal restriction on the collector giving him a leaway to bolt with the deposit as and when he wishes.
SUSU Collectors are common in Ghana, specially Accra, the capital. Their bill boards are scattered in the city.
These SUSU Collectors sometimes wait for their clients in their small offices with their membership cards and are always ready to transact business.
The clients prefer making daily savings with Susu Collectors to operating bank accounts because the scheme is considered more friendly and accessible to them, compared to banks which are fraught with bureaucracies. However, deposits at the bank are always secured.
The Susu Collector sometimes goes round selling points of clients who could not go to him in the office. This encourages the traders to save part of their earnings towards expansion of the businesses.
The clients trade in many different wares whose sale pattern is unpredictable.This situation is what normally prompts them to make the daily savings.
Only ten percent of Ghanaians can safely transfer money through banks. The banks have few branches, and it used to be difficult to send money to relatives in rural areas. But now, the money doesn’t need to go on the road anymore.
It is stigmatisation at its worst for insurance companies to subject their would be clients to medical check-up with the intention of avoiding those who are unhealthy. While it is common knowledge that insurance companies are not operated on a philanthropy basis, it is also important for these companies to understand that they have a responsibility to the society. People with chronic diseases have a right to access services from insurance companies just like those who are healthy.
The most disheartening thing is that even the check-up is done without the knowledge of the clients, that it determines their eligibility for signing a contract. They are hoodwinked to believe that the check-up is part of the company’s corporate social responsibility. This is in total breach of fundamental human rights which the constitutions do not even grant but just confirm. It is one’s inalienable right to know why any action is being taken against him.
I am pretty sure, beyond reasonable doubt, that this violation of human rights by insurance companies would cause freedom fighters like Nelson Mandela to weep. At this point, Mandela’s words in the Infamous 1964 Rivonia Trial come to my mind. He told the honourable Judge that “I have cherished the ideal of a free and Democratic Society where all people live together in harmony and with EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES. It is the ideal I hope to live for and to achieve. But if need be, it is the ideal for which I am prepared to die.
Insurance companies like many other business entities, have one main target which Profit is making. They are not institutions of charity.
They play a very crucial role in the lives of their clients by acting as their cushion in uncertain times. They sell Premiums to hundreds if not thousands of individuals who put their monies together in a pool to serve as cover for all.
Therefore for the companies to be able to adequately cover for everyone when the need arises, it will be important that each contributor’s state of health is ascertained before they become a part of that family. It is not an issue of Human Rights abuse here, but simply a logical business practice. Sick people cannot be expected to sign any contracts.
A classical example will be signing a chronically ill person alongside someone who has no health problem at all. Will it then be fair to make a full pay out in the event he or she dies the following day? Am afraid it will not be!
It’s true that in some instances companies screened the blood of their would-be clients without telling them the reason for doing so. But would anyone blame the companies for protecting their interests? After all it is the prerogative of the clients to ask as many questions as they can about what they sign up to. A failure to realize their rights cannot be attributed to any foul play by the insurance companies. In the Holy Bible we are told, each man is your brother’s keeper. But in business, you are not your brother’s keeper.