A resident of Aburi accessing the automated teller machine. PICTURE: MAXWELL OCLOO
A resident of Aburi accessing the automated teller machine. PICTURE: MAXWELL OCLOO

Akuapem South yearns for commercial bank

Residents of the Akuapem South Municipal Assembly (ASMA) in the Eastern Region have not had access to banking services in their municipality for nearly five years.

The vacuum was created in 2018 after the GCB Bank, the only commercial bank with presence in the municipal capital, Aburi, for many years, closed its branch to customers and subsequently migrated its operations to Mampong in the Akuapem North Municipality.

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This situation has forced the residents to either rely on an automated teller machine (ATM) in Aburi, which often breaks down, or join long queues at Mampong, an approximately 8.1km distance from Aburi, to transact banking service.

With a population of 76,922, the municipality hosts many workers and pensioners alike. There are also people from the diaspora who have settled on the mountains after relocating to Ghana, as well as many affluent Ghanaians who have put up holiday houses, second homes or grand edifices, owing to the area’s fast development and serene environment.

The municipality also accommodates institutions such as Ashesi University, Presbyterian Women's College of Education (PWCE), Aburi Girls Senior High School, Aburi Botanical Gardens, with the Aburi Craft Village shoring up its commercial viability.

Efforts by the traditional and political authorities to bring back GCB Bank and other banks to establish in the municipality have so far not yielded results.

Constituency visit

When the Daily Graphic team visited the municipality in the first week of December 2022 and on January 4, 2023, it noticed a single ATM and a branch of the Akuapem Rural Bank.

The ATM in the municipality, located at the entrance of PWCE in Aburi, had broken down during the two visits, leaving the populace to travel as far as Madina in Accra, Mampong, Koforidua and other areas for banking transactions.

At Mampong, the team noticed long queues, especially at the end of the month, due to a system breakdown.

The team also observed construction works ongoing on a new two-storey banking square by the Akuapem South Municipal Assembly at Aburi, the capital of the municipality.

Information gathered from the traditional council indicated that GCB Bank secured a land about three years ago to build a new branch, but construction works on the said land are yet to start.

Interacting with the team, a resident who gave his name as Yaw Baah, said it was true that the municipality had an ATM, but due to the frequent pressure on its usage, it was often out of service.

“If the bank had been present through a branch, their clients would have had direct access and not travel as far as Madina to deposit or withdraw funds,” he said.

Another resident, Eugenia Toabea, said that the municipality had a rural bank but it was limited in terms of services it provides to the people.

She added that workers in the community were not comfortable with the situation.

ASMA’s engagements

The Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) of ASMA, Frank Aidoo, told the Daily Graphic that the municipality deserved a bank and that was the reason the assembly was building a banking square.

He said the assembly had started engaging some banks including Fidelity Bank, ADB Bank and GCB Bank to establish in the municipality.

“We want to bring in financial institutions that can better understand the needs of the people because the absence of GCB Bank has created a big vacuum.

“Fidelity Bank and GCB Bank have already been here to undertake their own assessment but we see progress in GCB Bank,” he said.

The MCE added that the banking square was about 85 per cent complete and is expected to be completed by the end of the first quarter of this year.

Traditional council’s position

The Aburihene, Otoobour Djan Kwasi II, said it had become extremely difficult for residents to access banking services in the last few years.

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“It is sad news to hear that a municipality such as Akuapem South and its capital Aburi, with so much history, does not have the presence of a single commercial bank.

“It has become sad because when any of these big firms around collect their daily sales, they need to go through real trouble before transporting to a bank in Accra or Mampong,” he said.

He appealed to management of GCB Bank to expedite actions on the bank’s return to the municipal capital.

Expert opinion

A Banking Consultant, Dr Richmond Atuahene, said it would not be prudent for any bank to put up a physical branch in an area where there were no firms to grow their deposits.

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He explained that Akuapem South was an area with few institutions to support opening of a standalone branch.

“In this days and era, a bank would find it difficult to put up a brick-and-mortar branch due to electronic banking services,” he said.

Towards that, Dr Atuahene called on the management of GCB Bank to upgrade the capacity of its software in Mampong to accommodate the migrated deposits.

He also urged the Akuapem Rural Bank to take advantage of the absence of the banks to expand its scope in the municipality to bring in more deposits.

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Meanwhile, GCB Bank is yet to respond to a letter from the Daily Graphic requesting information on the closure of the Aburi Branch on January 18, 2023, although it served a greater part of the Akuapem South Municipality.

An official of the Corporate Affairs Department of the bank, Fred Agyeman promised, on several occasions, to furnish the Daily Graphic with the information requested but none of the promises had been fulfilled as at February 13, 2023.

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