Opinion: Coops need to look beyond Ushirika Day


The recently held Ushirika Day marked a significant milestone in celebrating the accomplishments of Kenyan cooperatives. However, the future of cooperatives lies in their ability to adapt, innovate, and collaborate.

The day, celebrated annually on the first Saturday of July, is a significant event that highlights the importance of cooperatives in the country’s economic development.

It serves as a reminder of the power of collective action and the positive impact cooperatives have on local communities.

It also puts into perspective the achievements cooperatives have made, yet it is essential to build upon these accomplishments and adapt to changing dynamics.

As we look beyond Ushirika Day, it is crucial to assess the prospects of Kenyan cooperatives and explore how they can continue to thrive and address emerging challenges.

Cooperatives have provided a platform for citizens to collectively pool resources, gain access to markets, share knowledge, and negotiate better terms with stakeholders.

Embracing technological advancements, diversifying revenue streams, engaging the youth, strengthening governance, and fostering collaborations are vital steps towards ensuring the sustained growth and success of cooperatives.

One crucial aspect for the future of Kenyan cooperatives is embracing technological advancements. In an increasingly digital world, cooperatives must leverage technology to enhance their operations, increase efficiency, and expand their reach.

Digital platforms and mobile banking solutions can facilitate faster and more secure transactions, while online marketing and e-commerce platforms can help cooperatives tap into wider markets and overcome geographical limitations.

Furthermore, embracing emerging technologies such as blockchain can improve transparency, trust, and traceability within cooperatives, leading to enhanced accountability and better governance.

Kenyan cooperatives have traditionally relied on a few core sectors for revenue generation, such as agriculture and financial services. While these sectors remain vital, there is a need to diversify revenue streams to ensure long-term sustainability.

Cooperatives can explore opportunities in emerging sectors like renewable energy, tourism, information technology, and manufacturing.

By diversifying, cooperatives can mitigate risks associated with overdependence on a single sector, adapt to changing consumer demands, and creating new avenues for job creation and economic growth.

Kenyan cooperatives must actively engage and attract young people to secure their future viability. The youth bring fresh ideas, energy, and technological skills that can drive innovation and foster the continued growth of cooperatives.

To achieve this, cooperatives can provide mentorship programmes, entrepreneurial training, and funding opportunities for young members.

Sound governance structures are essential for the success and longevity of cooperatives. Cooperatives should prioritize strengthening their governance frameworks by implementing transparent and accountable practices.

This includes promoting democratic decision-making processes, conducting regular audits, and ensuring compliance with legal and regulatory requirements.

Cooperative networks and collaborations can play a crucial role in the future of Kenyan cooperatives. By joining forces, cooperatives can pool resources, share best practices, and advocate for favourable policies at local, regional, and national levels.

Cooperative federations and apex organizations such as Kenya Union of Savings & Credit Co-operatives (KUSCCO) can provide a platform for coordination and representation, enabling cooperatives to amplify their voices and address common challenges collectively.

 Additionally, fostering collaboration with international cooperative movements can facilitate knowledge exchange and access to global markets to open new opportunities.

Nevertheless, as Kenyan cooperatives move forward, it is crucial to acknowledge and address the challenges they face.

Limited access to finance, inadequate infrastructure, bureaucratic hurdles, and unequal market access are obstacles that need to be overcome.

They, therefore, should advocate for supportive policies and work with stakeholders, including the government, financial institutions and development organisations, to address these challenges effectively.

As Kenya celebrated Ushirika Day and reflected on the accomplishments of cooperatives, it is crucial to recognize that the journey does not end there.

The future lies in the ability to adapt, innovate, and address emerging challenges.

By addressing challenges, seizing emerging opportunities and staying true to the cooperative principles, Kenyan cooperatives can continue to make a significant impact on the country’s economic and social fabric in the years to come.

Let us seize the opportunities presenting and build upon the foundation of Ushirika Day to create a vibrant and resilient cooperative sector in Kenya.

By David Kipkorir

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