Deputy Vice Chancellor Finance Planning and Administration at the Co-operative University of Kenya (CUK) and career cooperator Prof Esther Gicheru has called for mergers in the co-operative sector if better governance and management have to be achieved.
In her presentation titled ‘The Contribution of the Cooperative Business Model in Development: Practices and Opportunities’ to the first cooperative annual conference, Prof Gicheru said there is an urgent need to consider mergers, integration, and strategic alliances in order to have stronger and viable cooperatives.
The conference was held in Mombasa recently.
According to the don, the country needs to learn from the recent and good examples of mergers of cooperatives in Germany and Canada.
Between 1993 and 2001 for example, there were 1484 mergers in Germany, 84 per cent of which were within the cooperative sector.
At the same time, Prof. Gicheru observed that there are still many challenges in the governance of cooperatives in Africa, especially in regard to leadership, but also in terms of the calibre of employees engaged by the organizations.
“It is necessary for the leadership and management staff to possess appropriate training in their respective areas to be able to address their responsibilities with sufficient professional knowhow,” said Prof. Gicheru.
She noted that a major weakness exists in the form of ignorance regarding the rules governing the operations of cooperative societies, with many members not knowing or understanding the by‐laws since they have little or no access to information.
She also noted that there are many cooperatives that are too small to afford professional managers and automation of their processes as they, too, operate almost in isolation, hence remaining weak.
The conference, whose theme was ‘Co-operative Business Model for Socio-Economic Transformation’ and attended by 180 delegates drawn from different cooperative organizations countrywide, called for training of the cooperative sector on good governance and leadership, a responsibility that was given to the State Department for Co-operatives (SDC), Council of Governors (CoG) and CUK.
Taking cognizance of the establishment of the cooperative movement stakeholders’ secretariat, the conference resolved that there will be a deliberate effort to create and build partnerships between CUK and all county governments through signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU).
It was also resolved that the Commissioner for Cooperative Development and the Sacco Society Regulatory Authority (SASRA) strengthen cooperatives through harnessing and building capacity of staff by June next year, where SDC, CUK and SASRA will track its implementation.
Continuous promotion of inclusion in cooperative business model (gender, youth and vulnerable communities) and urgent adoption and integration of digital technologies in co-operative management and operations was part of the wider scheme.
Appreciating the contribution of cooperatives to the socio-economies of nations, the conference agreed to promote universal compliance with International Co-operative Alliance (ICA), notably on cooperative identity, principles and values across the cooperative business models, a responsibility that was given to Co-operative Alliance of Kenya (CAK) for continuous monitoring.
Other resolutions include ICA, CAK, CUK and SDC to continuously engage the cooperative movement on the review of the cooperative principles and values, which are due for review as 30 years have lapsed, with the Cabinet Secretary for Co-operatives and MSMEs Development being asked to fast-track the appointment of a taskforce to work on cooperative regulations by June 2024.
County governments are also expected to come up with county cooperative Bills by June 2024 in readiness for the National Cooperative Development Bill and Regulations that are being established.
Annual technical forums for county cooperative officers was also considered as a platform for sharing ideas, opportunities and challenges, as well as the standardization of operations and management of cooperatives at county level, to be implemented by CUK, CoG and SDC before June 2024.
Lastly, there is need to develop a tool to measure the achievement of the ICA principles at the cooperative level and lobby for adequate budgetary provisions to assist in the delivery of the planned activities by April 2024.
By Roy Hezron
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