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Review from the regions: Africa (April 2015)

24 Mar 2015

First co-operative development policy for co-operatives in Sierra Leone

The Government of Sierra Leone has developed and approved the first Co-operative Development Policy for the Co-operative Department and by extension, the co-operative movement in Sierra Leone. The policy is a milestone achievement that shows the government’s willingness to reawaken co-operatives. It is also a recognition of the role this sector can play in enabling people to mobilise, manage, own, control and make the most of the available resources to lift themselves out of poverty.

This is the first attempt to review the 1977 Co-operative Act in order to reflect the contemporary operations of co-operatives in Sierra Leone. The initiative from the government will to revamp these sleeping giants - co-operatives and has been viewed by many as a step in the right direction, and by extension, the engine that could drive the movement forward.

The process of reviewing of the Co-opt Act of 1977 had begun in the form of consultative meetings at regional level to give the wider stakeholders an opportunity to contribute to the reviewing process, but halted because of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak. It is expected to continue after the eradication of EVD, this being an important issue on the presidential agenda.

Rwandan movement continues to grow

Last year the National Cooperative Confederation of Rwanda (NCCR) welcomed four new members, increasing the number of members to 13. At its General Assembly on 26 November 2014, the confederation elected a new committee of the board, chaired by Mr Katabarwa Augustin. In February NCCR has also formed a co-operative horticulture federation in collaboration with the Rwanda National Agriculture Export Board (NAEB). This is another achievement as a result of its good advocacy, which increased the number of NCCR member federations to 14.

The same month representatives from the Alliance’s regional office for Africa met in Kigali. On the occasion of the regional board meeting, they visited some Rwandan co-operatives, including COPRORIZ (Coopérative pour la promotion du Riz de NTENDE – Rice promotion co-operative on NTENDE), COPCOM (Housing co-operative of Kigali City) as well as the premises of NCCR. They were impressed by the activities of these co-operatives and appreciated the level of development of the co-operative movement in Rwanda.

As a member of the International Co-operative Alliance, NCCR was invited to attend Cooperative Training workshop - Co-operative and Enterprise Promotion in Rural Africa in Israel from 15 February to 12 March. Four members participated in the workshop.

Kenya leading SACCOs growth in Africa

The number of saving and credit co-operatives (SACCOs) continues to increase in Kenya, which recently received an award for leading the growth of SACCOs in Africa.

The Kenya Union of Savings and Credit Co-operatives (KUSCCO) Limited received the accolade during the 2014 Savings and Credit Co-operatives Associations (SACCA) Congress, held in Lesotho. The award was given by The African Confederation of Co-operative Savings and Credit Associations (ACCOSCA).

Kenya has a population of 43 million people. Of this, 2.7 million are members of deposit taking SACCOs.  Saving and credit co-operatives in Kenya employ over 250, 000 people and over 60% of the population depends on SACCO related activities. They also contribute 45% of Kenya's GDP. The asset base of these societies has grown from Kshs 294 billion in 2012 to Kshs 335 billion in 2013. Deposits have also increased from Kshs 213 billion in 2012 to Kshs 241 billion in 2013.

Ghana was also awarded at the event for being the most instrumental country in youth inclusion. Ghana has a population of 26 million people and of this, one third is the youth. The Credit Union Association of Ghana (CUA) introduced youth savings clubs in various schools. This initiative saw students come together and pool their savings to form a joint account with a Credit Union or Bank. There are 89 youth savings clubs with 19,675 members. The clubs have a net savings of USD $ 213, 870.

The award for the country most active in ACCOSCA events went to Swaziland. The state has a population of 1.6 million people with over 70 SACCOs. Despite having a small population, the country has mobilised many people to participate in ACCOSCA events and was thus awarded.

Speaking during the Congress, ACCOSCA Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, George Ombado said: “The Congress provides an opportunity to debate on topical issues around co-operative development and implementation.”

Also present at the congress was Elizabeth Lekoetje – Commissioner of Co-operatives – Department of Co-operatives. She noted that the Lesotho Co-operative Union had been in existence for over 20 years, yet the growth of the co-operatives was still slow.

ACCOSCA, which is a Non-government, Pan-African Confederation of National Associations of Savings and Credit Co-operative Societies, aims to continue to build capacity in Africa to attain growth in SACCOs, and improve the lives of people in Africa. ACCOSCA currently has 28 member countries.

Co-operative Identity toolkit launched in Botswana

The Botswana Co-operative Association is encouraging co-operatives from across the country to use the co-operative identity toolkit in order to showcase their co-operative uniqueness. The toolkit was officially launched at a one-day event featuring the Minister of Trade and Industry, Ontlametse B. Ward. 

“Our expectation is that the launch of this toolkit will reignite the spirit of co-operation and self-reliance among members of co-operatives and beyond. Our viewpoint, as government, has always been the increased participation of communities in development,” said the minister.

Developed by Domains.coop, the toolkit includes a downloadable poster, video tutorials, buttons for your website and newsletters and a multi-lingual banner, all designed for use in member communications. To deliver greater visibility co-operatives can apply for using a .coop domain and the global Co-operative Marque.

By using the Marque, the sector can raise awareness of the importance of co-operatives to local communities and the world at large, said Mr Ward.

“The visibility of our products, which will be created by the use of the identity kit, should be considered as a serious challenge because it means that our products and services should be of high quality and standard lest we distort the very image we are trying to build. 

“As Government we are hoping to achieve this greater visibility by encouraging co-operatives to register and use the .coop domain for their online communication and apply for and use the global Co-operative Marque as part of their visual identity,” he added.

The minister also encouraged the Botswana Co-operative Association to ensure that their members are familiar with the toolkit and how to use it. There are currently no users of the .coop domain in Botswana, but two organisations have registered to use the marque: Botswana Co-operative Association and the Department for Co-operative Development. Co-operatives can apply to use the Marque at www.identity.coop.

Photo: board members of the Alliance's regional office for Africa visiting the premises of the National Cooperative Confederation of Rwanda