By Staff Reporter
A section of the National Co-operatives (NACOS) and the co-operative sector players in general have voiced concerns over lack of a Principal Secretary (PS) in the State Department of Co-operatives.
The concerns come weeks after immediate former PS Ali Ismail left office over failure to be re-appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta when he formed his Government earlier this year.
Ironically, there is a growing feeling within the co-operative sector that given its critical role in President Uhuru’s Big Four Agenda in the next five years when it comes to housing provision, the sector even deserves a ministry of its own
Statistics show more than 14 million Kenyans draw their livelihood directly from co-operative activities, while an even larger number do so indirectly.
The Sacco sub-sector in Kenya has mobilized savings to the tune of Sh600 billion with an asset base of over Sh800 billion.
Currently, Saccos stand at over 5,000 with a membership of over 7 million Kenyans both locally and in the diaspora.
Mwalimu National Chairperson Teresa Mutegi noted that given the critical role the co-operative sector plays in the Kenyan economy, it deserves a ministry of its own.
“We have not been given the clear attention we deserve as a sector. We need a ministry of our own as the co-operative sector. All is not lost however. SASRA is doing well in its regulation role because looking back, we are not where we were 20 years back,” noted Mutegi who chairs the board of the largest Sacco by asset base on the African continent.
The National Co-operative Housing Union (NACHU) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mary Mathenge said it was unfair for the co-operative sector to remain without a PS.
“The co-operative sector is a key player in the national economy and the presence of a PS can help in development agenda of the national government,” Mathenge told the Sacco Review.
She said the co-operative sector was especially critical in ensuring the success of the Big Four projects, especially when it comes to Housing and Agriculture.
“We want the co-operative sector to be looked at centrally. Co-operatives can also contribute towards industrialisation and, therefore, the sector should be looked in isolation,” added Mathenge.
Co-operative Bank of Kenya Director Benedict Simiyu, who doubles as the Chairman of Ngarisha Sacco (former Bungoma Teachers Sacco) said there was need for the Government to rethink and give the co-operative sector the recognition it deserves.
“The co-operative sector is strong and its importance cannot be downplayed,” added Simiyu.
Kenya Highlands Sacco CEO Alice Kosgei said lack of a PS for the sector was demoralising and that co-operative activities need to be given adequate attention by National Government just like other sectors.
Unlike under the Government of retired President Mwai Kibaki and other earlier regimes where the Co-operative movement had its own independent ministry, the sector has since 2013 remained a mere department in the Ministry of Industrialisation and Enterprise Development.
Stakeholders have in the past argued that relegating the affairs of the sector to a department in the Ministry of Industrialization and Enterprise Development had stifled growth of the Co-operative movement in the country.
And surely the push for a ministry has not only remained associated with ordinary stakeholders in the sector, as even MPs from across the political divide have equally launched a fresh push for creation of a co-operative ministry by the Jubilee government.
Members of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Co-operatives, among them Makueni MP Daniel Maanzo, insists that co-operatives need a ministry of its own to streamline some of the challenges facing the sector.
Maanzo who was a former co-operative secretary in the previous government of retired President Mwai Kibaki noted they would do everything as legislators in fighting for the interests of the co-operative sector in the country.
“When you come to Parliament, the Bunge Sacco is very strong and retired President Kibaki is one of the highest savers of all time,” Maanzo revealed.