Co-operatives offer best structure to spur bottom-up economic strategy, says former CEO

By Kage Njoroge

Cooperative societies have been touted as the key pillars of economic development as they have the ability to mobilize citizens to pool financial resources to achieve set objectives.

Alex Irungu, the retired long serving CEO of Mentor Sacco, argued that Saccos are crucial drivers of social and economic progress with multiple benefits to consumers.

“These societies have empowered members to embrace a culture of saving and investing their incomes to realize personal financial growth,” he said, noting that only Saccos are able to gather members with common interests, challenges and goals to address their issues from one front.

He recalled that the government’s move to organize the matatu industry to a transport Sacco greatly helped to tame rogue operatives.

“The implementation of the policy has restored discipline and order in an industry that was known to be chaotic,” he said, noting that such moves show how powerful Saccos are.

Irungu noted that streamlining of the matatu industry has led to creation of new employment opportunities.

 He disclosed that Sacco members are always trained to understand the importance of saving and utilizing resources to invest in various projects for personal financial growth.

“The members are always trained on money management literacy, prudent spending, strategic investments and generation of sustainable financial streams. Through such knowledge, members become strict on how their finances are used, not only at a personal level, but also at the Sacco managerial level,” he said.

The former CEO proudly stated that he left Mentor Sacco in the supper club of billionaire Saccos.

He observes that during his time in cooperative leadership, he witnessed thousands of Sacco members move up the financial ladder to generate wealth and stable incomes.

“Many have bought land, built family homes, established businesses and provided their children with quality education. They have also planned their financial retirement properly,” he proudly stated.

He explains   that the Saccos members are likely to access affordable credit products without prohibitive conditions like in the commercial financial institutions.

He disclosed that Saccos have contributed hugely to development of real estate properties in urban centres.

“Most urban centres host commercial houses built by cooperative societies to generate incomes,” he said, further pointing out that many buildings and businesses financed by Saccos give financial lifelines in towns and cities.

The former CEO urged law and policy makers to actively involve stakeholders  to address emerging  challenges, which obstruct  this  industry from serving  the customers  as desired.

“Friendly policies should be put in place to enable Saccos operate without unfair competition from other financial providers in the banking industry,” he said.

He noted that governance, financial management controls and oversight of resources   should be adhered to strictly by Sacco leaders to avoid corrupt practices which could ruin these institutions.

He called on the government to consider   using the Saccos to transact some of its funds to reach the people at the grassroots.

“Saccos   have useful experience and capacities of handling customers of diverse backgrounds and can effectively administer the funds like the Hustler Fund to achieve intended objectives,” he said.

Irungu lauded the creation of the Ministry of Cooperatives and MSMEs Development, noting that it will help solve the challenges the coop sector face.

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