Cooperatives and MSMEs Cabinet Secretary (CS) Simon Chelugui has said co-operatives have been an important socio-economic development tool since independence, and thus the need to channel all resources through the sector.
“We want to reposition our country in all sectors through the cooperative model for meaningful growth, including in the realization of the bottom-up economic model,” he said.
According to the CS, a countrywide survey on the cooperative sector done in 2021 found that Kenya has a total of 23,275 recognized cooperatives as at December 2018, with an cumulative gross wealth of up to 25.91 per cent of national savings.
“These cooperatives earn the country Ksh20,839 billion in export and Ksh173,260 billion shillings in overall revenue, accounting for 2 per cent of the country’s GDP,” he stated, noting that the numbers clearly indicate that the cooperative sector is a key driver of economic development in Kenya.
Addressing delegates and other cooperative stakeholders at the Sarova White Sands Hotel in Mombasa during the first co-operative movement stakeholders conference, the CS noted that the cooperative movement in Kenya has taken on a new face since 2022, thanks to the current government’s efforts to involve every Kenyan in the country’s economic development.
He urged Saccos to focus on digital literacy and empowerment in pursuit of the cooperative model so that the majority of Kenyans may easily be mobilized into the Sacco movement.
The CS stated that technology and digital literacy are now at the heart of any development and emphasized the need of fully embracing them.
According to Chelugui, Saccos should embrace inclusivity by providing financial literacy as well as digital empowerment from the ground up as this is the spirit of the cooperative economic model.
He challenged all housing Saccos to step up and occupy the area now that the country has a deficit of over 200,000 houses in its affordable housing scheme.
“We have a fantastic opportunity, we have land, and there is a demand from people in need of housing. This is the time,” he said.
He hailed the Sacco economic model as the saviour from famine and the perpetual humiliation of begging for food from other countries.
“We can support and empower our own farmers to produce food for ourselves and to empower them in terms of wealth,” he said.
He added that 14 million Kenyans are involved in the cooperative movement, and that the cooperative movement directly or indirectly employs around 65 per cent of Kenyans.
However, he pointed out, the greatest hitches in the cooperative movement’s functioning are mismanagement of funds and scarcity of cooperative extension officers, which has resulted in a lack of connection between farmers and cooperative leadership.
He stated that substantial research is required in order to produce excellent coffee that will sustain the country’s status as a major supplier of good coffee. He asked CUK to teach and train as many cooperative officials as possible to bridge the gap.
“The government is aware of the capacity gap that still exists in many cooperatives, and I would like to encourage cooperatives to take advantage of training opportunities provided by the cooperative university as a public institution,” he said, revealing plans to make the cooperative university a regional centre where people from neighbouring countries can learn.
Advocating for accountability in cooperative fund management, he cautioned sector leadership that they will face serious consequences if they misappropriated money.
Since the cooperative movement is devolved, he also recommended the commissioner and other top officials to collaborate with counties.
“This will strengthen inter-governmental relationships while also increasing our capacity to train cooperative officers,” he observed.
In order to increase the use of technology, the CS stated that the movement is developing shared services platforms such as Coop-Tech and Sacco Central.
He praised the business sector, particularly digital firms, for their assistance in launching the government’s bottom-up economic masterpiece.
He remarked that there is a rising desire for tactical support in the movement and offered to engage with all stakeholders across the country to achieve the best possible results.
By George Otieno
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