OCDC report explores the co-operative difference in Kenya

Members of co-operatives enjoy better economic conditions than non members, says the report

An evidence-based study published by the US Overseas Cooperative Development Council (OCDC) found that Kenyan co-operatives have a positive impact on their members’ lives.

The report is one of four national case studies – with the others focusing on Poland, Peru, and the Philippines. In Kenya, OCDC surveyed a representative sample of over 2,000 people across the country and found that co-operative members on the whole enjoy better economic conditions and greater social capital than the population as a whole.

According to the report, co-operative members are more likely to have average and above-average incomes compared with non-members. Furthermore, 97% of respondents said membership positively affected their households’ financial situation. Thirty-eight percent of co-operative members report incomes above 360,000 KSH, while only 21% of non-members report incomes in that range.

Over half of co-operative members (63%) said they had gained “access to loans, savings, shares and commissions”, which have helped them diversify their income sources and supports them during financial hardships. Ninety-one percent (91%) of those sampled (co-operative members and non-members) mentioned improved access to markets as a benefit of co-operative membership.

Another finding was that, while women are under-represented as co-operative members relative to their proportion of the population, women co-operative members believe that co-operative membership positively influences their economic wellbeing (99%).

Women who belong to co-operatives also report higher earnings than women who are not members. Benefits include access to loans, markets, and better education for their children.

Respondents also said that co-operatives play a positive role in their local communities. Seventy-eight percent of rural respondents and 80% of urban respondents affirmed co-operatives’ positive influence on their community’s quality of life improvements. Members use their increased income to pay for school fees and uniforms for their children, increasing their communities’ literacy levels and their families’ future earning potential.

In light of these findings, OCDC suggests that co-operatives can play in fostering inclusive economic growth in countries around the world. It calls on all governments to make co-operatives a policy priority to achieve broad-based, inclusive economic growth. It also points out that co-operative can be key actors in building back the economy post pandemic and should be included in Kenya’s national economic recovery programme. Furthermore, argues OCDC, co-operatives provide a ready vehicle to mobilise climate mitigation and adaptation strategies through scaling knowledge transfer.

OCDC published its first report in the series, looking at Poland, in 2018.

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