The government has identified cooperatives as the vehicle through which it will achieve its transformational objective of improving lives and promoting economic growth.
Cooperatives Cabinet Secretary (CS) Simon Chelugui said the national transformation agenda will focus on several key areas such as food security, financial inclusion, nutrition, infrastructure, production, education, healthcare and economic development.
He emphasized that the mobilization of those at the bottom of the pyramid would be effectively done through the cooperative movement.
The bottom up economic model, he said, was best exemplified by the cooperative business model that tapped the strengths of their members.
“Cooperatives play a key role in social economic development in Kenya and are found in all various economic spheres, including agriculture,” he said.
Addressing the technological changes gradually experienced in the sector, the CS said significant leaps will not happen without the industry being guided by transformational leaders.
“Change is inevitable and it must start with us. But we must be transformational leaders who create visions for the future and communicate effectively to their teams and encourage creativity and innovation,” he stressed.
Technology, he said, had become a driving force behind change in almost every industry and plays an integral role in sustaining cooperatives by fostering the ability to manage resources, improve efficiency and create products and solutions in line with the needs of end users.
Additionally, as Saccos invest in technology such as Coop Tech, a shared service that will bring cooperatives together on one platform, Chelugui said it was prudent as well to invest in cyber security due to the rapid increase in cyber crime around the world.
Coop Tech, officially launched during the summit, will establish and provide an inter-cooperative borrowing and enable cooperatives to participate in the national payment system.
“As cooperatives, you are dealing with members’ money. You should therefore implement strong and proper internal controls to protect members’ funds because a shilling lost in any Sacco affects the image of the entire sector,” advised the CS.
Further, Chelugui announced that the government will be partnering with regulated Saccos in the disbursement of the second product of Hustler Fund; the micro enterprise loan.
“The Hustler Fund programme will go a long way in realizing financial inclusion for millions of Kenyans who would otherwise be excluded from the mainstream financial system,” he added.
Since its launch three months ago, the fund has provided affordable credit to over 19 million Kenyans with a total disbursement of Ksh24 billion and a repayment of 60 per cent to reach Ksh14 billion.
Saccos, he reiterated, continue to be the best intermediary between savings and investments, further encouraging members to embrace a saving culture for socio-economic development.
The CS urged Sacco leaders to tap into the diaspora market that constitute four million Kenyans who annually remit Ksh400 million, and also take part in the national call to deliver 250,000 houses in the affordable housing scheme.
He said the sector has grown immensely to record over 28,000 cooperatives with a membership of 14 million who control assets worth Ksh1.5 trillion, savings of Ksh1 trillion, and advances in excess of Ksh180 billion.
He challenged leaders to create a culture of inclusivity, stating that deliberate efforts must be pushed to attract youth and women and even give them leadership positions.
Applauding CAK for the Coop Tech innovation, he further inspired them to come up with a shared service for all cooperatives, which may include agriculture, transport, fishing, and housing, among others.
He noted that despite these tremendous achievements, the cooperative sector faces numerous setbacks that include weak governance, inadequate funds for affordable credit, low skills and competencies, low adaption of technology, and bad publicity.
By George Otieno