One Year Without A License We Worked Hard For-Dr. Nduom writes
August 16, 2019 will stay in my mind as a day of infamy, treachery and robbery of the rights and assets of indigenous Ghanaian entrepreneurship. For one year, I have turned numerous opportunities to state the case of GN Savings in public. I have sent numerous petitions to state and traditional authorities. I took the advice of many of them to appeal to the Human Rights Division of the High Court in Ghana to seek the restoration of the rights which were wrongfully taken away from me on that day by the Bank of Ghana. While the matter is still in Court, I will continue to stay away from the substantive matter.
There are some things that I find difficult to comprehend. Why are politicians so eager to take a matter in court, ignore the fact of the existence of due process and go on TV, radio and social media and cast aspersions on shareholders and directors? Why are those who claim to be independent professional service providers also take to the media to condemn and call indigenous entrepreneurs bad injurious names when no court of competent jurisdiction has done so? Why are many Ghanaians so quick to rejoice and willing inflict more damage when they perceive that someone is down?
On that day, sitting in an office in Chicago, Illinois, I questioned myself for the second time ever, whether or not it has been worth it to return back home to Ghana and seek to invest my time and life savings to create jobs and participate in politics. I felt very alone then. One year on, the sadness remains. A dream remains deferred. My faith leads me to believe that soon and very soon, justice will prevail. Then I will tell my story. The whole story about First National/GN Bank/GN Savings – the why, who and how.
Nobody gifted a banking license to Papa Kwesi Nduom and the other shareholders. We worked very hard to get a license from the Bank of Ghana to establish First National Savings and Loans Company Limited, which became GN Bank. GN Bank then became GN Savings & Loans Company Limited following the approval by the Bank of Ghana to reclassify GN Bank.
The shareholders started the process in 1997 to create a national financial institution. After nine years of planning, preparation and interactions with the Bank of Ghana (BOG), First National Savings & Loans Company Limited was granted a license to open for business in May of 2006. A number of local companies and people were rejected as potential shareholders. Eventually, our company, Coconut Grove Hotels became the major shareholder, later to be joined by others. The required Capital was paid in and verified by the Bank of Ghana.
We started with SuSu like products and gave millions of Cedis to micro scale enterprises to trade and work with. There are thousands of business people today who owe their beginning to the small loans they took from First National. Included in this number are tens of local contractors who were helped to secure and execute GetFund, cocoa roads and Road Fund contracts with backing from First National.
We developed a five year strategy to be in 300 locations with one million customers. We designed “Money Stores”, “Express” buildings and constructed them. We teamed up with a George Soros company that contributed capital, to make this happen so as not to fall on depositor funds. The huge investment of funds, energy and sweat was paid for by shareholders and was completed in July 2018. At our peak, we employed over 2,000 people, mostly very young men and women. Together with security guards and other service providers, our numbers exceeded 3,000. Our customer base exceeded 1.2 million. We made it possible for small businesses in places such as Widana, Djemeni, Kwame Danso, Walewale, Pusiga, Tumu, Paga, Debiso, Tuobodom, Anloga and many, many other towns other licensed financial institutions wouldn’t go.
I have not invested so much time, energy and risked so much to establish and develop a company as I have done with GN Savings. I was not an absentee shareholder. My job was to lead the business strategy development, fund raising and physical expansion. My body has felt the numerous and unending travels to Wulensi, Widana, Gwollu and many other places difficult to reach to find land and supervise construction.
For those wondering, yes, August 16th has caused the health of many, myself included, to deteriorate. A number of businesses and families have suffered. I have felt the pain of customers got caught in the engineered liquidity crisis.
But I have an unshakable belief that while there is judgment here on earth, we will all have to give account to the Higher Judge above one day. What is covered by darkness, documents hidden, plans hatched behind closed doors to make others suffer will come to Light.
“For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29: 11.
By: Papa Kwesi Nduom