Financial services have improved in recent years with the introduction of a stock market, the Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE) in 1990, and several new financial institutions. Since 1992, privatization and the arrival of 4 new commercial banks have brought increased dynamism to the sector. The government has sold off equity in several wholly or partly state-owned banks. After some difficulty finding an active investor for the Social Security Bank (SSB), a consortium of fund managers led by the UK-based Blakeney Asset Management built up a controlling 51 percent stake in 1997 and hired a technical partner, Allied Irish Bank, to enhance SSB's management and services.
Competition has brought some benefits, with commercial banks introducing new products, including automatic telling machines and credit-card services, and a significant turnaround in check-clearing and cashing. However, the banks still have little appetite for lending to small and medium-sized local businesses, which has caused some concern.
The rest of the financial sector is growing and diversifying, although it remains relatively small. Ghana has 2 discount houses, and since the setting up of the stock exchange, several stock brokers have set up shop. Legislation introduced in 1999 is expected to open way for unit trusts and more varied financial instruments. There are now 17 insurance companies, up from fewer than 9 in 1993, although the industry remains dominated by 2 state firms. There are mortgage companies, building societies, at least 1 venture capital company, and 3 leasing companies.
Although retail facilities remain limited, urban areas are served by a range of outlets, and there are a growing number of foreign-owned stores in Accra with many more new investments expected in the coming years. Rural areas typically have mainly informal markets or modest general stores.
The tourist sector is the fastest growing sector and it has overtaken timber as a foreign exchange earner. Revenue from tourism has increased gradually, with most of the tourists coming from Nigeria, the United Kingdom, Côte d'Ivoire, the United States, and Germany. The Ghana Tourist Board and the Ghana Tourist Development Company supervise the regulation, financing, and development of the tourist industry. Tourism is being revamped through up-grading of hotels and the rehabilitating of tourist attractions. Hotels are located at Accra, Tema, Takoradi, and Kumasi, and there is a hotel at Akosombo overlooking Lake Volta. There were 325,438 tourist arrivals in 1997, including some 83,000 Ghanaians who live abroad, generating receipts of US$266 million, comprising 16 percent of foreign exchange earnings.