The International Co-operative Alliance's Africa office plans to bring co-operation to the next level with a development strategy for the next three years.
Presented at the Alliance's 2013 Global Conference taking place in Cape Town, South Africa, the 2013-2016 strategy is themed “Leveraging the Benefits of a Co-operative Enterprise” and builds on the positive results achieved throughout 2012, the International Year of Co-operatives.
Regional Director of International Co-operative Alliance's Africa region, Dr Chiyoge Sifa, said the strategy is aimed at strengthening co-operatives, helping them to provide effective and sustainable services to their members. She added that this is "the first outward looking continental strategy which brings all the players ( co-operators, government officials, development partners and supporters) around the same table."
According to Dr Sifa, African co-operatives face several challenges, including low human resource capacity, weak economic base, extensive external financial dependency, lack of internal capacity and the occasional weak governance.
The new plan, inspired by the Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade, is designed to address these challenges, while boosting the sector’s high potential of growth, particularly in service and social amenities provision.
“We look forward to a great movement in the continent which will deliver tangible benefits to its members and build the economies of the continent,” commented Stanley Muchiri, President of ICA Africa.
To boost co-operative growth, the Africa office will set up a co-operative grading and rating structure that will be applied to all co-operatives in the region.
The new development strategy touches upon the five main themes of the Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade: participation, identity, sustainability, legal framework and capital.
With this strategy, International Co-operative Alliance Africa hopes to increase participation, position co-ops as builders of sustainability, ensure a supportive legal framework and secure reliable capital while guaranteeing member control.
The regional office will assist in conducting surveys on the advantages and disadvantages of existing means of co-operative growth financing by sector. It also aims to mobilise more resources for the Endowment Trust Fund for the ICA-Africa Region and extend collaboration with NGOs.
As agricultural co-operatives play such an important role in food security and rural development across Africa, the office aspires to create a network including all agricultural organisations in the region.
The strategy also acknowledges the importance of co-operative education; and the strategy sets out a campaign for the inclusion of co-operatives in schools and higher education curriculums.
Another key priority for the region is extending its work with non-governmental and intergovernmental organisations. Furthermore, the office intend to establish a network of African Co-operative Parliamentarians, similar to the one existing in Latin America.
To ensure the success of this strategy, the regional office will set up a monitoring and evaluation system, making sure that the objectives and targets are met.