The study sought to appraise the effect of interest rates on loan repayment in microfinance institutions. Lapo Micro Finance Bank, a microfinance institution in Ikot Abasi was used as a case study for the study. The research was conducted using questionnaires and interviews. In all 100 customers and 20 employees were sampled for the research. A systematic random sampling was used for the data collection. The findings of the research revealed that though interest rate plays a major role in loan repayment, other factors such as loan term and the repayment frequency also influence to a large extent the loan repayment. Customers indicated that though lower interest rate would enhance loan repayment, the issue of accessibility and availability of funds was paramount. To enhance loan repayment, the researcher recommends lower interest rate to ease loan repayment burden and loans granted should be amounts that customers can service. Again, micro-insurance could be established to protect the Institution and customers against any default. Introduction Micro financing is the provision of financial services to poor and low income households without access to formal financial institutions (Conroy, 2003). Microfinance programs provide loans, savings and other financial services to low-income and poor people for use in small businesses (Mohammed and Hassan, 2008). These institutions include rural banks, community banks, cooperative banks, thrift banks, credit cooperatives and microfinance NGOs. According to Otero (1999), the aim of micro-finance is not just about providing capital to the poor to combat poverty on an individual level, it also has a role at an institutional level. It seeks to create institutions that deliver financial services to the poor, who are continuously ignored by the formal banking sector. MFIs provide similar products and services to their customers as formal sector financial institutions. The scale and method of delivery differ, but the fundamental services of savings, loans, and insurance are the same. Notwithstanding, to date most efforts to formalize microfinance have focused on enterprise lending (loans for enterprise formation and development) which remain by far today the dominant product offered by microfinance (Nourse (2001), Woller (2002a)). This, however, has slowly begun to change. Increasingly today MFIs have begun to offer additional products, such as savings, consumption or emergency loans, insurance, and business education. Nourse (2001) reviews the context and rise of microfinance products and argues there is a need for savings and insurance services for the poor and not just credit products. He goes on to argue that microfinance need to provide tailored lending services for the poor instead of rigid loan products. The main goal of Ghana’s Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS II) is to ensure “sustainable equitable growth, accelerated poverty reduction and the protection of the vulnerable and excluded within a decentralized, democratic environment”. The intention is to eliminate widespread poverty and growing income inequality, especially among the productive poor who constitute the majority of the working population.
According to the 2000 Population and Housing Census, 80% of the working population is found in the private informal sector. This group is characterized by lack of access to credit, which constrains the development and growth of that sector of the economy. The observation was stressed in the International Monetary Fund Country report on Ghana of May 2003 that “weaknesses in the financial sector that restrict financing opportunities for productive private investment are a particular impediment to business expansion in Ghana.” Microfinance perceived as a financially sustainable instrument meant to reach significant number of poor people of which most are not able to access financial service because of the lack of strong retailing financial intermediaries. Access to financial services is imperative for the development of the informal sector and also helps to mop up excess liquidity through savings that can be made available as investment capital for national development (World Bank-Africa Region, 1999). Microfinance as a sector has the potential to reduce poverty by bringing a significant improvement in the lives of the active poor who are largely women.
Microfinance in Ghana has made some remarkable strides in the Country especially within the private sector. Among these achievements are as follows: The introduction of microfinance into the Country has made it possible for operators of small businesses to access credit facilities which hitherto were difficult to access due to difficult modalities by the formal financial institutions. Even though the amount involved are modest not huge, it supports their businesses to some extent.