Co-operatives should embrace and help develop the African co-operative movement, which can help to feed the world, heard the International Co-operative Alliance Global Conference.
Stanley Muchiri, vice-President of the Alliance’s Africa region, called on the global movement to increase its support for African co-operatives. Mr Muchiri added that Africa is a land of opportunity, particularly in agriculture. He said Africa is “ready to feed the increasing population of the world”.
“This is a sector which needs more attention,” said Mr Muchiri. “The main challenge in this area is the mobilisation of farmers to market products. ICA Africa will devote more resources in the coming years to encourage national governments to supports farmers and to help feed our increasing population.”
But Mr Muchiri added: “Globally co-operatives should increase support to the African co-operatives. Africa wants to find its place as a key player in the global movement.”
In a keynote speech, Zimbabwean politician Sithembiso Nyoni echoed the view of Africa’s increasing importance: “Africa is on the move. Our economies are growing. Growing faster than some of the economies in the developed world.”
This is down to the increase in gender balance that has allowed women more opportunities to participate in business and politics, said Ms Nyoni. She added: “Let us strive to build a better world. Africa is a major player. Africa is on the move, women are on the lead, walk with us.”
On agriculture, Ms Nyoni said: “Co-operatives are contributing to food security. In Malawi and Zambia, the governments are supporting co-operatives and small farmers with technology and training. This is allowing them to create more food and they are our neighbours, and exporting to us too.”
Ms Nyoni said also that there is more widespread recognition of the need for smaller farmers to work together. She said: “Big farmers recognise they can’t do without smaller farmers. We now need to work together, we need to be inclusive and co-operatives are the model that are bringing people of diversity together.”
The values of co-operation is also ingrained within communities across Africa. Said Sithembiso Nyoni: “Co-operatives are the way in Africa, I’m saying that because this is not a new model for Africans. As Africans we are used to organising ourselves to go and plough the crops together; to build homes together and to do certain tasks together. The only difference is that we were not registered.
“It’s now time to modernise this concept and to be a part of the global movement. Co-operatives brings together those who are usually pushed into the margins. Co-operatives are the best model to take Africa to the next level.”
Dr Rob Davies, the Minister of Trade and Industry for South Africa, told the conference: “Africa is the home to seven of the fastest 10 growing economies. But Africa has recognised that Africa has got to put itself on a different trajectory.”
He said that Africa cannot prosper if it exports its raw materials. “Africa has got to move into more value added production and industrialise,” added Dr Davies. “We can be beneficial and add value to our products and move more into agro-processing. If we look at that carefully we can see many opportunities for co-operative enterprises to play an important role.”
Charles Gould, Director-General of the Alliance, said: “The co-operative model is a potential solution to many of the world’s problems. Nowhere is the opportunity and need greater than in Africa. This is an economy that is already displaying significant growth and development. An opportunity for the co-operative movement.”