Opinion: The unsung heroes who shaped coop movement


As part of our national calendar and heritage, Kenyans celebrate Mashujaa Day (previously observed as Kenyatta Day) on the 20th of October every year to reflect and honour the Founding Fathers of our Nation.

On this historical day the leaders pay glowing tributes to these heroes and more so extol the virtues that defined our struggle for independence almost six (6) decades ago. 

Over time, however, such important annual events have also been used to recognize and fete men and women who have proven to be achievers in various fields.

The most notable persons recognized are the sportsmen and women who have done the country proud on the global scene.

Other persons closely monitored for recognition are innovators in various fields besides persons who have impacted humanity in special ways, just to mention but a few.

In practice, you will note that the government uses its machinery to identify such heroes and heroines from all the 47 counties which is a good thing as it goes a long way towards cementing our nationhood.

Where does the cooperative sector fall in such important national events ?

Do we have innovators or achievers in the sector who merit recognition on such important symbolic and national events ?

If so, how would you select or identify true achievers in this important sector ?

We are alive to the fact that some cooperative leaders/ practitioners have been honoured in the past but largely by virtue of the portfolios they hold in society but not otherwise. 

We also know that each and every year, some adjudication is done as a precursor to International Day of Cooperatives (IDC) aka “Ushirika Day” where best performing cooperatives are identified and rewarded.

However, the major challenge here remains that only cooperative societies that pay for the Adjudication are subsequently assessed.!

This implies that, if only one cooperative society pays for the said adjudication, under a particular category, then it shall be declared the ‘best’ in that category!

Again, the winners in each category are individual cooperatives as body corporates but no natural persons are singled out to whom such successes are actually attributed.

What’s more, it is a common practice to see some cooperatives buy space in the print media to showcase their ‘success’ stories purposely to woo new members to join them.

Their rallying calls are mainly centred around anticipation for higher competitive rates of dividends/ interest on deposits in the case of saccos.

In so doing, these cooperatives declare themselves the ‘best’ in the industry and they succeed in recruiting more members to join them. 

Never mind that the question of “common bond” is not observed strictly contrary to what their own bylaws may provide.

How then can the cooperative sector identify true heroes and heroines and possibly present their names to the government for recognition on important National Days such the now-ended Mashujaa Day?

To do so, we need to borrow a leaf from Nigeria.

There exists an outfit called “Cooperatives Rating and Awards Society of Nigeria (CRASoN) that undertakes to assess cooperative MSMEs and other corporate organisations annually and recognizes and Awards best performers at very colourful events graced by top industry and Government representatives from the various States.

The bottom line is that it is high time Kenya adopted the Nigeria’s model of CRASoN through which a structured way of identifying true achievers or heroes/ heroines is developed to boost the morale of those who make real changes in the sector.

I think it is high time the age-old theory that “Kenya is number 1 in Africa and number 7 in the world cooperative-wise” was debunked so that the complacency syndrome around it can be put on hold so we embark on the transformative trajectory that is necessary to harness the potential that exists in the promotion of health cooperatives, worker cooperatives, blue economy/fisheries et al!

This will only be realized if individual effort by practitioners is identified and rewarded so as to boost their morale.

Infact, we look forward to the creation of a platform, (such as AFRICOOP) through which cooperatives around the Africa region can compete amongst themselves thereby promote greater cooperation among cooperatives and above all create a bigger impact in the socio-economic lives of the cooperators around the entire continent !

By Fred Sitati

Sitati is a respected Sacco Consultant

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