By Eddie Ssejjoba
The Government has made the development of cooperative movements a priority intervention for social-economic development since they help in resource mobilisation, employment, increased production and value addition.
Trade minister Amelia Kyambadde, however, said cooperatives are still facing many challenges, including political interference, especially at lower local councils, and lack of effective member participation.
She said although savings and credit cooperatives are critical in addressing the challenges of financial exclusion in Africa, they are facing leadership and governance weaknesses and lack of appropriate knowledge and skills.
The minister was addressing the 13th Congress of the African Confederation of Cooperatives savings and Credict Associations (ACCOSCA) at the Imperial Botanical Hotel in Entebbe over the weekend.
The congress drew participants from several member countries in Africa, who hailed the UN for declaring 2012 a year of cooperative movements.
Kyambadde said many people in Uganda cannot access financial services, yet they would create jobs, increase production, add value to their produce and ensure quality and bulk marketing.
“In Uganda, we have about 12,000 cooperative societies. Our challenge is that many of the cooperative societies are not functioning as expected,” she said.
Kyambadde noted that the Government has embarked on intensive sensitisation of the people on the formation and importance of cooperatives and building capacity of staff through paying their salaries and training their leaders.
She said the law on cooperative societies should be reviewed to accommodate diversification of their activities.
Kyambadde added that the Government should create a micro-finance support center to offer wholesale loans to cooperatives and SMEs, with 9% interest per annum for agricultural and environmental loans and 13% on commercial loans.
Joseph Nyagah, the Kenyan minister for cooperative development and marketing, who is also the chairman of ministers of cooperatives in Africa, urged members to encourage the youth and women to join cooperative movements, adding that the average age of the over one billion cooperative members in the world is 65.
He said most cooperative members deal in traditional crops such as coffee, which creates the need for diversification to create new ventures that are attractive to the youth.