The Global Conference of the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), Cooperatives for Development, is under way in Kigali, Rwanda. Over the next three days, 1,000 representatives from 94 countries will explore how the movement can help to drive sustainable development.
Welcoming delegates to the heart of Africa, ICA President Ariel Guarco said: “The participation of each and every one of you is fundamental and I am convinced that this meeting will be an excellent opportunity to discuss and exchange ideas which will no doubt contribute to advancing our cooperative movement.”
ICA-Africa Regional Director, Chiyoge Sifa, added: “This is the second time in the ICA’s 124-year history that we are back in Africa. We had the privilege of welcoming the cooperative family to South Africa in 2013 and today we are very pleased to have you in the heart of Africa – Rwanda.”
Thacienne Mutezinka, President of the National Cooperative Confederation of Rwanda, highlighted the role played by coops in the social and economic transformation of the country.
And Japheth Magomere, President of the Africa Region of the International Cooperative Alliance, quoted figures from an ILO study which found that 7% of the African population belongs to a cooperative.
“We have seen genuine and economically viable African cooperatives which create economic opportunities, provide a basic level of social protection, and provide members with voice and representation,” he said.
Delegates also heard from Prof Anastase Shyaka, Rwanda’s Minister for Local Government, who talked about the role of cooperatives in rebuilding the nation in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide. The cooperative movement is the biggest employer and wealth generator in Rwanda. “The ICA is a very important partner for the world transformation and particularly, the rural development,” he said.
He explained how the country is among the three fastest-growing economies in Africa, second for ease of doing business, first for network readiness and fourth in terms of gender equality at a global level.
The minister thinks there is a direct correlation between gender promotion and cooperative growth.
“The successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on our continent and beyond will be closely linked to how we make our cooperative movement more successful,” he said, adding that this was also key to creating more opportunities for young people, women and those living in rural areas.
Looking ahead to next steps for the movement, Mr Guarco said that ICA members would be asked to approve a new strategy at the organisation’s General Assembly, as the Blueprint for a Cooperative Decade comes to an end in 2020. The General Assembly takes place in Kigali on Thursday, immediately following the conference.
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