Ethiopia hosted its fifth annual National Cooperative Exhibition, Bazaar & Symposium earlier this month, under the theme “co-operatives for fairness”.
Held at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) conference centre in Addis Ababa, the event set out to strengthen the past achievements and success of co-operative unions, led by government development body the Federal Co-operative Agency.
Its mission is to strengthen and facilitate the organisation of co-operatives and build their capacity through developing their market share, improving their legal framework and creating co-operative associations that ensure member benefits.
“The Federal Co-operative Agency, through its participation in social development, has helped to build more than 200 projects in education, health, water, road and bridge building and other social developments,” Omar Surer, executive director of co-operative unions, told delegates.
“It has benefited more than 225,000 citizens and has created job opportunities for over 1.4 million citizens; with a special focus on women and youth.”
In his speech, reported on Ethiopia’s afro105fm, Mr Surer added that the federal co-operative agency is also working in different areas to increase the capacity of co-operative unions.
“The agency has designed four focus areas,” he said. “It is working diligently to build on the co-operative union’s implementation and execution capacity. This is expected to increase savings and income of its members to sustainably improve their lives and to tremendously increase the number of members.”
The movement in Ethiopia is being strengthened with the development of co-operative unions and associations. These provide farmers with agricultural inputs such as different chemicals and stronger crop varieties, help to avoid higher payments through market chain commissions, and providing timely, cost-effective market opportunities.
They also work to stabilise markets by controlling the price and transporting produce directly from farms – which also gives consumers access to cheaper, fresher, standardised produce.
The Ethiopian Herald reported that the the number of co-operative associations in the country grew from 245 in 2010 to 381 in 2017. The number of basic co-ops rose from 38,454 in 2010 to 82,089 in 2017.
And the number of union members of co-operatives grew from 6,792 in 2010 to 14,135 in 2017.
“These developments of co-operative associations, basic co-operatives and unions in general encompass nearly 18 million people as members,” the Herald added. “From this, about 30% of the members are females with annual development rate of 27%.”
Abdo Adem, plan, project and information director at the Federal Co-operative Agency, told the Herald that co-op associations were developing agricultural products. and creating market opportunities for producers and consumers by expanding investment, encouraging savings and supplying loans.
He said co-ops have contributed more than $500m to the country’s export trade over the past seven years but warned the movement still faces barriers, including a lack of awareness of co-operative associations and a market network that was not strong enough to meet existing demand.
There is also a lack of skilled manpower in the administration of co-operative structures, and not enough support for the development of co-operatives, and assistance for the co-ops over foreign trade, he said.