Cooperation in Africa: The ICA perspective

ICA Africa leaders look at what co-ops mean for the continent.

We spoke with Hilda Ojall, ICA Africa Youth President and Dr Chiyoge Sifa, Director of ICA Africa, to find more about the role of cooperatives in the region.

“Seven per cent of the African population are members of cooperatives,” said ICA Africa President, Japheth Magomere, quoting recent figures from the International Labour Organization (ILO). Speaking at the opening of the International Cooperative Alliance International Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, Mr Magomere said coops create economic opportunities, provide a basic level of social protection, and provide members with voice and representation.

Also attending the conference are Dr Chiyoge Sifa (Director of ICA Africa) and Hilda Ojall (ICA Africa Youth President). We spoke to them ahead of the opening. 

“Currently the greatest challenges for Africa are related to governance, poor management and the environment,” said Dr Sifa. “But there are also the issues of conflict, corruption, rapid population growth, poor education, a low literacy rate and an unequal distribution of resources.”

She believes that coops have a positive role to play in addressing these challenges. “Cooperatives are innovating,” she said, “and the movement is also rejuvenating itself. Coops in Africa are adjusting to the continent’s changing environment by developing products and services that are different from traditional ones, and are venturing into new thematic areas.”

Hilda Ojall describes herself as “a young cooperator from Africa, with a keen interest in supporting other young people and ensuring that they gain access to decent jobs through cooperative enterprises”.  As a certified Credit Union Development Educator at Kenya Union of Savings and Credit Co-operatives, she is helping credit unions build capacity and address various issues they are facing. 

She believes that while some young people see coops as old-fashioned business models, this perception is changing. 

“We need to address existing stereotypes and young people’s perception of coops as old-fashioned businesses by educating them on how cooperative enterprises actually work,” she said. “We can also change this perception by involving young people at board level and ensuring that both young cooperators and experienced leaders are equally engaged in their cooperatives.”

For all of our coverage from Kigali, click here