I’ve visited over 100 clients in the past two months and one of the most common responses to “how are you going to use this loan” is “I’m going to buy in bulk.” At first, it appeared to me that perhaps this is a common impulse to overstock inventory so a customer never walks away empty-handed. But, I was quick to learn that this bulk purchasing phenomenon is not driven by concern about product supply but rather inventory cost. Here, in Ghana, there is an omnipresent concern over creeping inflation. And with Zimbabwe in the news this week and the accounts of inflation rates exceeding 100,000%, it seems inflation is becoming a center of conversations here as well.
Officially, the government recently raised its benchmark interest rate for commercial banks to 14.25% as a result of inflation that had risen to around 13.2%. But, what has been more interesting is how it creeps into my daily life. Like every gas-dependent American, I at first noticed it in the rising gas prices at the petrol stations. Soon, the taxi drivers were trying to raise their fares (taxi fares are not metered, but highly negotiable). At work, the company’s cook insisted on a pay raise as the cost of her food was increasing. On the corner outside our office, the lady who sells me lovely bananas with small bags of peanuts started selling me three bananas for 20 pesewas instead of four bananas. And, now the President of Ghana is at the Africa-Indian summit telling the world that rising food prices threaten to stall Ghana’s development achievements of the past several years.
It is in this environment that a loan provides an important hedging tool for the working poor. By giving an entrepreneur the cash to stockpile their inventory they guard against these price hikes. I, of course, thought to myself – “what happens if the price goes down though.” Joshua, the Kiva Coordinator, only smiled at me, “prices never go down.”