Co-operatives given boost with new legislation in East Africa and government endorsement in South Africa

19 Feb 2015

A new legislation designed to regulate co-operative societies in East Africa sailed through the third reading in the East African Legislative Assembly on 28 January. The East African Community Cooperative Societies Bill, which was enacted after being debated and amended by the members of the assembly, is expected to lead to more regional integration.

“Today is definitely a good day for the co-operative movement and this is very exciting news,” said Phillip Kiriro, President of the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF), the organisation that drafted the bill.

“I have just returned from a stakeholders meeting in Addis Ababa and everybody there had expressed optimism. The long wait has finally paid off”, added Steve Muchiri, the Federation’s executive director.

Chiyoge Sifa, regional director of the International Co-operative Alliance for Africa, also said: “The act marks a milestone towards positive co-operative development in the East Africa sub regional particularly and across the continent at large. My hope is that the Act will be implemented to boost regional integration which will spur economic development of our great continent.”

The Bill lays down the objectives of co-operative societies and touches upon the formation, rights and duties of members. The law also includes reference to assets and liabilities, settlement of disputes and dissolution of societies.

The legislation will regulate co-operative societies at regional level.

As well as playing an important role in East Africa, co-operatives will contribute to boosting South Africa’s economy. In his State of the Nation speech, President Jacob Zuma revealed a nine-point plan designed to “ignite growth and create jobs”. One of the nine point mentioned refers to unlocking the potential of small, medium and micro enterprises, co-operatives, townships and rural enterprises.

He said: “Among key interventions this year, we will promote the establishment of agri-parks or co-operatives and clusters in each of the 27 poorest district municipalities to transform rural economies. An initial funding of R2 billion has been made available for the Agri-Park initiative.”

The president added that agriculture had the potential of generating one million jobs by 2030. Jacob Zuma announced improvements in labour legislation to further promote worker rights.

“Small business is big business. Government will set-aside 30% of appropriate categories of State procurement for purchasing from SMMEs, co-operatives as well as township and rural enterprises,” he said. According to the president, the National Youth Development Agency has disbursed 25 million rand to 765 youth owned micro enterprises in the last financial year nationally.

Photo: Hon Dr Nderakindo Kessy makes a point on the floor of the House