The current issue of The Economist has a special briefing on Africa, setting forth a particularly promising picture. In fact, they’ve titled it “Africa’s hopeful economies: The sun shines bright”. Its teaser reads “The continent’s impressive growth looks likely to continue.”
No one who has followed the history of Africa, especially in recent decades, believes this will be easy. One of the challenges will be to extend this promise to the continent’s citizens, and not just to a few. The co-operative model is designed to do that. It has allowed co-operatives to develop in the African member countries of ICA during these very difficult years and it will prove itself an ideal structure should conditions improve.
ICA has taken steps to ensure that we can support further co-operative development in Africa. Recently, Dr. Mutua Waema joined ICA as Africa Regional Director. He comes with a successful track record, especially in the co-operative credit and savings sector. At ICA offices in Nairobi, Kenya, he is surrounded by strong co-operative activity. His message and efforts are appropriately centered on the entrepreneurial nature of the co-operative model, and reflect the spirit and promise of The Economist’s article.
These are remarkable times. While Africa is showing signs of tapping into the great promise it always held, and China’s growth continues, others struggle. The Euro-zone is whiplashed by investor concerns over its interconnected debt; unemployment in the United States persistently hovers at the historically unprecedented 10% level. Yet even here the co-operative opportunity is strong.
ICA’s goal for the 2012 International Year of Co-operatives is to raise public awareness of the co-operative model as a solution for the challenges that people around the world are facing. For those in Africa and other growing regions, it is a solution for individuals to come together to seize the opportunities now emerging. For those in economically-challenged regions, we point back to the roots of the co-operative in the 19th Century Industrial Revolution, another time when great tectonic shifts of economies were occurring.
2011 is closing. History will judge it as a lynchpin to the period that follows. For ICA and the co-operative movement, it was a year of preparation—for the 2012 International Year of Co-operatives, which officially opened late in 2011, but which subsequent reviewers will think of in calendar terms. 2012 is our opportunity to shine, and we are ready. We have a story with substance, and we are now sharing it.