International News round up (28 February – 11 March 2014)

Kenya The Co-operative Bank of Kenya is offering thousands of children the chance to study in the country where education remains one of the most expensive things in...

The Co-operative Bank of Kenya is offering thousands of children the chance to study in the country where education remains one of the most expensive things in any Kenyan household budget. The bank has recently increased its secondary school scholarships for disadvantaged children from across the country to almost 2,800.

International Co-operative Alliance’s regional director for Africa, Dr Chiyoge Sifa, said education was key to unlocking Africa’s potential, but it remained a luxury for people in the region. “A helping hand from the Co-operative Bank will relieve a great number of families in Kenya and free them from the poverty circle. This is a noble act and I urge other co-operatives in Africa to double their efforts in sharing with their communities,” she said.

A leading co-operator has been appointed as Italy’s new Labour minister.

On 21 February Italy’s new prime minister, Matteo Ranzi, announced the line up of his cabinet, which includes Gianluca Poletti, the current president of the Alliance of Cooperatives.

The Alliance consists of the Italian General Association of Co-operatives (AGCI), the Italian confederation of co-operatives (Confecooperative) and the National League of Co-operatives and Mutuals (Legacoop). Mr Poletti has worked as an agricultural engineer for more than 20 years and was also city councillor of Imola on matters related to agricultural production.

From 1989 to 2000 he was the president of Legacoop Imola, then regional president and national vice president of the regional branch. He has been the president of Legacoop since 2002 and chairman of Coopfond (the company that manages the mutual fund for the promotion of co-operatives) since 2006.

Japanese consumer co-operatives have set out their priorities for 2014 after 260 representatives from across the country met in Tokyo to discuss how the increase in the consumption tax will affect the sector.

With the government’s decision to increase consumption tax from 5% to 8%, Japanese consumer co-operatives aim to lower the cost price of their products and suppress the price rise. The decision to increase the tax is likely to increase competition between Japanese retailers. Co-operatives, represented by the Japanese Consumers’ Cooperative Union, will aim to maintain the affordability of their products.

Another key objective for the coming year will be to attract more members. Japan remains the world’s third largest economy. However, in the aftermath of the Fukushima crisis, retailers, including consumer co-operatives, have experienced a decrease in the number of customers.

Over 51% of people in Paraguay prefer co-operatives to other banks, according to a recent survey conducted by Next Consultora and Nauta. The same survey also reveals that women prefer to bank with financial co-operatives, while men tend to open account at PLC banks. Generally, co-operatives are perceived as more accessible than other banks.

Saving and credit co-operatives in Paraguay account for 14% of savings at national level, with $1.94m (£1.16) in 2013. Co-operatives also bring together the largest number of depositors in the financial system – approximately 1 million users. Saving increased by 20% in 2013 due to better rates for saving accounts compared to other banks.

However, maintaining low interest rates will be a challenge for co-operatives across Paraguay, especially since other banks have also recently decreased their rates.

A new co-operative law will help strengthen the co-operative sector in Australia. All states and territories agreed to the new laws when they signed up to the Australian Uniform Co-operative Laws Agreement in 2012. The law entered into force in New South Wales and Victoria on 3 March 2014.

Chief executive of the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCMM), Melina Morrison, believed that the launch of the law is a landmark for co-operatives across Australia.

“The introduction of Co-operative National Law will help co-op businesses to simplify the administrative and cross jurisdictional issues that other corporate structures have never needed to worry about.” The law enables large co-operatives to now carry out cross-border trade without worrying about the cost of registration in each state.

Fairtrade Fortnight 2014
International Fairtrade producers have been visiting the UK to take part in Fairtrade Fortnight.

Daniela Cedron and Luisa Bordon, two Fairtrade wine producers from Argentina, toured the UK meeting members and showcasing their products. Their co-operative, La Riojana, produces wine that is then sold in Co-operative Food Stores. Over 20% of the wine they produce is exported, out of which 85% is Fairtrade wine that receives a higher price.

Mercy Zaah and Mavis Adu Gyamfi, two cocoa producers from Kuapa Kokoo co-operative in Ghana also toured the UK as part of the Fairtrade Fortnight. Kuapa Kokoo owns 45% of Divine Chocolate, whose products are manufactured using cocoa from Kuapa Kokoo.

Mercy joined the co-operative in 1999 because of “how they care for their farmers”, while Mavis joined in 2009 after benefiting from their mobile health clinic project. Through the co-operative, they have access to machinery and training, as well as social services.

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