2019 Q&A: Chiyoge Sifa on Africa

Dr Sifa is regional director of the International Co-operative Alliance

 How was 2019 for co-ops in the Africa region?​ 

The year is ending on a high note with the region having implemented various key activities. First and foremost, the visit of ICA president Ariel Guarco to our region was very significant to the co-operative movement in Africa. 

Secondly, in collaboration with the regional office for Asia and Pacific, a successful regional development meeting for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region was held in Marrakesh, Morocco. The conference focused on co-operative development to foster collective action on the Sustainable Development Goals.

In May, ICA-Africa engaged our members and the co-operative movement and held a conference in Harare, Zimbabwe, focusing on SDG 3; participants. Best cases of health co-ops around the world (Brazil, Spain, and Bulgaria) were presented. 

A number of capacity-building training workshops have also been held for ICA-Africa members. Notably, the youth training on co-operative entrepreneurship; project development and functioning and advocacy towards the EU delegations; knowledge-sharing between ICA members on co-operatives in educational institutions and Global Co-operative Entrepreneurs (GCE) mentors and youth ambassadors training.     

As we continue to empower and strengthen the co-op movement in the region, it is important that we work with other partners. Therefore, this year, two memoranda of understanding have been signed. In May, ICA-Africa signed an MOU with Aflatoun International to work together to empower children and young people with social, financial, and entrepreneurial skills across Africa. In October, the second MOU was signed with Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative Limited (IFFCO), to promote co-op-to-co-op business, organisation of cultural integration programmes and trainings to empower co-op farmers.

Finally, it was a big moment to host the ICA Global Cooperative Conference and General Assembly in Kigali, Rwanda. This conference on the continent allowed African co-ops to exchange experiences with other co-operatives around the world and also send a message to governments in the region on what co-ops can do.  

What are the main challenges for the co-op sector? 

​Economic challenges leading to members not able to pay the subscriptions, regional imbalance – not many members from North and Central Africa, participation of young people in the movement, political insurgencies in some areas leading to slow implementation of activities in those regions. 

Can you give us any details of upcoming projects? 

​The Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) programme will to strengthen women’s access to economic freedom across Africa. This will be done through exposure visits for grassroots women who are community-based leaders of primary co-operatives or a grassroots Community Based Organisation (CBOs). 

Another project focuses on renewable energy technologies qualification with ICA-Africa members in Ethiopia. The project aims at installation and promotion of decentralised energy and water technologies through the qualification of co-operative technology ambassadors. The project will empower existing actors, co-operatives and households to plan, finance and operate the energy and water supply themselves.

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