Researchers meet in Johannesburg to discuss co-ops and the solidarity economy

The conference was preceded by a co-operative study tour

The 3rd edition of the Conference on Cooperatives and the Solidarity Economy brought together over 60 participants to Johannesburg in South Africa to discuss the latest studies on co-operatives.

Held on 1-3 November 2023, the conference was organised by the Africa Cooperatives Institute of South Africa (ACI-SA), a primary co-operative that provides research, training, and consultancy services for co-operatives, and the National Development Agency.

The conference was preceded by a co-operative study tour on 30 October, which gave participants the chance to visit some of the eight co-ops from the City of Ekurhuleni in Johannesburg, and learn how they deal with their day-to-day challenges. They also heard from the general secretary and associate director for administration of ACI-SA, Lionel Skhosana, chair Katleho Ralehoko, and treasurer and associate chief executive officer Sizwe Mkwanazi.

As part of the conference, CCSE also hosted a Young Scholars Workshop where young scholars engaged with experienced co-operative researchers. The workshop was chaired by Dr Andrew Okem from the International Water Management Institute, South Africa, and touched on a range of issues.

Sebonkile Thaba from the University of Johannesburg presented some of the opportunities and challenges of researching co-operative and the wider solidarity economy while Dr Mathias Nkuhi from Moshi Cooperative University in Tanzania provided tips on reviewing papers and handling reviewers’ comments.

Participants also heard from Dr Shadreck Matindike from the Young Scholars Initiative who led a round-table discussion on researching co-operatives from Academics’ and Practitioners’ Perspectives. The final session in this section looked at selecting journals and publishers for publication and was led by Dr Alban Mchopa from Moshi Co-operative University in Tanzania.

The second day of the conference featured a presentation by Professor Vishwas Satgar from Copac & University of Witwatersrand. Topics included the contribution of women’s empowerment to co-operative success in South Africa, the impact of co-operatives on the livelihoods and wellbeing of communities and the ecosystems they depend on, and the potential of fishery co-operatives in South Africa.

In the afternoon session, participants listened to a panel discussion on how to research food, basics,and inequality in the context of the social and solidarity economy (SSE) and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The debate was moderated by Dr Shadreck Matindike and featured Professor Naude Malan from the University of Johannesburg; Andrew Okem and Thembelihle Maseko from the University of Zululand.

On the third day of the conference participants learnt more about how to progress co-operatives and the SSE in research and practice, through a presentation by Ruth Bengu, board chair of the National Development Agency. Dr Andrew Okem also presented updates on the Studies in Cooperatives Journal produced by ACI-SA, while Leornard Okello-CEO of Uhuru Institute for Social Development, Uganda, delivered the closing keynote address.

The 4th edition of the conference will be held in Sandton, Johannesburg, South Africa on 6-8 November 2024.