Zimbabwe sees the cooperative movement and the organized and formalized small and medium sector as pivotal to inclusive economic growth and as tools for poverty reductions.
To-date, Zimbabwe has about 5000 vibrant co-operatives in the seven economic sectors. These are manufacturing, housing, agriculture, fishing, savings and credit and mining and services. They are organized from the primary co-operatives to the federation.
It is pleasing to note that the co-operative movement is not only growing, but also making significant contributions to people’s livelihoods. Last year alone, 187 co-operatives were registered. They came from all the sectors. The biggest sector is housing. There are currently 3700 housing co-operatives and they are leading providers of housing for the low income families. Besides, cooperatives and SMEs in Zimbabwe have achieved a lot. They provide 70% of the Gross Domestic Product and create 85% of jobs (RBZ October 2011). They are the major providers of family incomes as well as social and economic safety nets. Because of the way they are organized and run, co-operatives have provided a strong social and solidarity economic model in which both the tangible (capital, profits) and the intangible (support, participation, value of caring and sharing) carry equal weight in their businesses.
During the most difficult economic years between 2006–2009, co-operatives and SMEs provided a major economic and social life line. To support their sustainability and growth, the Ministry has facilitated training, exchange programmes with other countries and exposure to markets. In 2011, the Ministry trained several co-operatives in conflict management and resolution, good governance and how to run successful cooperatives. As Minister, have also led delegations to Namibia, Kenya and Iran on exchange visits. A Kenyan delegation led by Assistant Minister L. J. Kilimo came to run seminars for 500 Zimbabwe co-operators from 12–16th December 2011.
They covered such areas as:
1. How to run successful and efficient co-operatives.
2. How to organize savings to start a Co-operative Bank and
3. The formation and running of a cooperative insurance company.
The seminars moved our co-operators a step forward.
To expose them to markets, co-operatives are facilitated to go to national, regional and international exhibitions and fairs. This year, of those that exhibited at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, the co-operatives in textile manufacturing got a second prize. This was most encouraging.
There are great expectations and excitement for the 2012 International Year of Co-operatives. We want to celebrate our achievements by establishing a co-operative college and a co-operative finance institution to facilitate co-operatives and SMEs training and financing. We shall also go on a country-wide campaign and publicity on the work of co-operatives. Provincial expos and workshops will be held countrywide.