Full Length Research Paper
In applying microfinance as a strategy to create wealth and reduce poverty, developing countries have had to contend with individual and spatial dimensions of interventions. This paper contributes to the debate on spatial and socio-economic dimensions by examining the backgrounds of clients and non-clients of microfinance institutions in Ghana. Data were collected from 1,628 client households from 17 microfinance institutions and 1,104 non-client households in the three ecological zones of the country. Using the non-clients as control, the Microfinance Poverty Assessment Tool was adopted to analyze the background of clients and outreach of the selected institutions. Two regions of high well-being are ringed by relatively well-off areas, with the highest levels of poverty found in the northern parts of the country. While at the national level institutions served more poor clients in the less well-off areas, within region comparison showed higher reach of non-poor even in those poor areas. Outreach by gender was minimal, and clients in self-employed agriculture tended to be in the lowest quintiles compared to those in non-farm activities. While targeting less well-off areas at the national level will automatically lead to supporting the poor, it is necessary to address within-area variability. Gender-based strategies are needed to target more females in the lowest quintiles and policies need to focus on clients in agriculture who tend to dominate in the low quintiles. This is particularly important in a country whose economy is agriculture-based.
Key words: Regional variation, clients, poverty, microfinance, Ghana.
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