Q&A with ARN Researcher: Prof. James Atta Peprah

Written by:

We caught up with ARN Researcher James Atta Peprah and asked him to share his story. Here's what he had to say:

Tell us a little about yourself

James Atta Peprah is my name. I am an associate professor of economics and Dean of the School of Economics at University of Cape Coast (UCC). UCC is one of the best universities in Ghana. I joined UCC in 2007 at the then-Department of Economics. As a partly-qualified accountant (Institute of Chartered Accountants-Ghana), I obtained my Ph.D. and M.Phil. from UCC and my MBA in banking and finance (bilingual - English and French) from Centre d’Etudes Supéérieure en Gestion (CESAG) in Dakar, Senegal.

I engage in accounting and auditing services and offer some consultancy services. In the past, I have engaged in several training assignments for microfinance institutions and owners of SMEs.

I serve not only as an educator within the classroom but also as a practitioner in the field of microfinance. This dual role allows me to seamlessly integrate practical knowledge into my teaching methodologies. Furthermore, my experience extends to a tenure as a Policy Fellow at the Ministry of Trade and Industry for a duration of one year. This opportunity was facilitated by a grant received from the Science, Technology, and Policy Research Institute (STEPRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Ghana.

What are some of your research interests and why are you passionate about them?

I hold a Ph.D. in economics with special interest in development finance and more specifically microfinance. My passion for development finance grew stronger when I realized there was a need to mobilize financial resources to finance poverty reduction because I have been a victim myself. My research areas focus on development economics and finance, financial markets and institutions in developing countries, microfinance, economic growth and development, as well as small and medium scale enterprises' (SMEs) development.

Recently, I led a team of editors to publish Financial Sector Development in Ghana: Exploring Bank Stability, Financing Models, and Development Challenges for Sustainable Financial Markets, a book published by Palgrave Macmillan.

In addition, I have published more than 50 articles that focus on microfinance and poverty reduction, agricultural household financing, economic growth and development, and financial sector development, among others, in Ghana and Sub-Saharan Africa.

What are some challenges you face in your industry?

As a researcher, one of the key challenges I face is mobilizing financial resources to undertake research. The funding given by the government to undertake research is not adequate. Quality research is very expensive. Again, undertaking impact assessment (which is one of my research interests) requires more resources, especially for the field work, when experimentation is involved.

We have also not been able to link the academia to the development finance industry well and, for that reason, most of our research findings are not being used by the policy makers. As a researcher, I become disheartened especially when I apply for research grants and am not successful. This has happened to me a couple of times but that does not discourage me from trying again.

What is the most promising and /or exciting part of your research work?

My engagement with microfinance clients and owners of microfinance institutions is one of my exciting experiences. In one of my recent scoping studies funded by ICED, we had the opportunity to interact with farmers that have benefited from micro loans in Tamale; interesting stories were shared with us.

Our aim was to fill the access-to-finance gap with bundled financial services (ie: credit-savings-insurance), a term I have carved as "credit-plus-plus". Personally, I love field work and interacting with respondents, especially when the study is about rural residents.

Another exciting experience is when a national issue coincides with your research findings. In 2022, we published a paper from a research funded by the Directorate of Research, Innovations and Consultancy, UCC. The title of the paper is: Compliance burden and tax gap among micro and small businesses: Evidence from Ghana. Recently, in line with our findings, the Commissioner General for Ghana Revenue Authority announced that the compliance burden is too high for Ghanaian businesses to comply with tax payments, thus affecting our tax revenue.