Ghana Enters into a contractual agreement with ESOKO

By Eva Ntiamoah

 

In order to tackle extreme poverty and achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Government of Ghana (GoG) embarked on a number of initiatives, including the launch of the National Social Protection Strategy (NSPS) in 2007.

 

 

The strategy, which represents the GoG’s vision of creating an all-inclusive society through the provision of sustainable mechanisms for the protection of persons living in situations of extreme poverty, vulnerability and exclusion’, consists of three main components, namely the establishment of a new social grant scheme to provide a basic and secure income for the most vulnerable households; better poverty targeting of existing social protection programmes; and a  package of complementary inputs for beneficiaries of Social Protection programmes.

 

It is within this context that the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) cash transfer programme, the flagship programme of Ghana’s National Social Protection Strategy, was introduced in 2008.

 

LEAP is a cash transfer programme aimed at empowering the extremely poor, disadvantaged and vulnerable population in Ghana to improve upon their lives.

 

Since the inception of the programme in 2008, beneficiary households have increased from 1,654 to 250,000 and it is expected that by December 2016, a total of 350, 000 will be enrolled onto the programme.

 

Currently, the programme is administered by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MOGCSP) and managed by the Department of Social Welfare (DSW).

 

Last year, the sector Minister, Nana Oye Lithur, made it known that the Ministry was undertaking a nationwide monitoring exercise for the selection of additional beneficiaries to be placed on the LEAP programme— research having shown that the local economies of LEAP communities are turning around with the injection of the programme's cash benefits while more children are staying in school and many more people are now able to access health care.

 

In March, this year, the programme conducted a nation-wide enrolment exercise for all LEAP beneficiaries onto the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GhIPSS), an Electronic Payment (E-Payment) platform in all LEAP districts nation-wide to replace the manual system of transferring cash to the beneficiaries while improving the cash transfer arrangement, making it more robust, efficient and secure.

 

The enrolment exercise, covering a total of 146,074 beneficiary households in the 185 LEAP districts nation-wide, aimed at capturing the biometric data of beneficiaries to facilitate cash grant transfer electronically.

 

The LEAP beneficiaries were, therefore, registered onto the e-zwich platform and will receive their social cash grant through this platform.

 

This platform also comes with a second level biometric verification, which will authenticate the identity of LEAP beneficiaries, thereby avoiding the issues of intermediaries and prevent impersonation during payments.

 

The system, it is expected, will lead to financial inclusion as beneficiaries will automatically be enrolled onto the banking system, with a greater control over the management of their funds as they will decide when to access such funds.

 

The E-Payment system is also expected to deliver accurate and timely generation of payment reports for the LEAP Programme.

 

Esoko Ghana, a technology company has, therefore, been contracted by MOGCSP to collect electronic data to help in the selection of potential LEAP beneficiaries.

 

In an interview with the Managing Director of Esoko, Daniel Asare-Kyei,  he disclosed that Esoko had signed a contractual agreement with MOGCSP to conduct various data collection exercises including the pilot exercise of LEAP 1000 which was targeted at 10, 000 households in 2015 in 10 districts; the nationwide collection of data for the Ghana National House Registry as a registry of poor and vulnerable households in the country with a targeted number of households of 120 000 in 2016 and, most currently, LEAP expansion 2A targeted at 150, 000 households, which exercise is ongoing in 50 districts.

 

He also made it known that Esoko had been involved with agencies such as the Ministry of Agriculture, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank- International Financial Corporation (World Bank-IFC) on similar enumeration programmes.

 

William Osei Agyeman, Finance Manager of Esoko, explained that the team collected data in real time using smartphones and tablets, reports and downloads with analysis, and personalized forms to capture exact data needs.

 

Esoko, Mr Agyeman said, had, over the years, perfected its data collection processes by using new technologies and rigorous methodologies.

 

Mr Isaac Boateng, Esoko’s Project Manager for the LEAP program said the program has since engaged over 300 field staff to collect data for the project.

 

The writer is an officer of the Information Services Department.

 

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