Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Gov’t pleads with Batswana to embrace co-operatives

Government has pleaded with Batswana to give co-operative societies a chance as new strategies are being developed to revive the ailing sector that was once the backbone of rural economies before the advent of aggressive retailers. Co-operatives have been struggling because of failure to innovate even though, if properly run, they can help in economic diversification and empowerment of rural communities. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Banny Molosiwa argued last week that cooperatives should be given a chance to innovate and become relevant. She was speaking at a conference on economic diversification organised by BIDPA, the University of Botswana’s Department of Economics and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.
“Give us a chance. The new policy will ensure that cooperatives are run as a business. Let us allow the new blood to come up with innovative ideas,” said Molosiwa.

She revealed that Botswana has been on a benchmarking mission to Kenya where cooperatives reportedly contribute 54 percent to the country’s GDP. A representative of Selebi-Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU), Pako Kedisitse told the conference that there are already signs of green-shoots among co-operatives, saying the cooperative in Bobonong was turning the corner while the one in Phikwe was on the right track. A senior economics lecturer at University of Botswana, Gaotlhobogwe Motlaleng stoked the conference by asking why co-operatives should be given a chance when they still conduct their business in a primitive manner. The Ministry of Trade lists five types of co-operatives in Botswana, among them multipurpose co-operatives, which supply consumer commodities and agricultural services to their members and the local community, and the consumer co-operatives that provide a wide range of retail to both rural and urban communities. Others are producer co-operative societies, which make products or offer services to sell for profit where the workers are members or worker-owners. They work in the business, govern it and manage it.

The marketing co-operative society seeks better markets for members’ produce and provides credit and other inputs to increase members’ production levels. In savings and credit co-operative societies (SACCOS), members pool their savings together with the aim of obtaining loans from their pooled resources for provident (carefully planned future needs) and productive purposes. A paper by Dr. Pelotshweu Tapologo Moepeng states that potential members of societies today are more educated and better skilled than was the case in the past and urged government to be proactive in supporting the movement.

“Government need to put in place appropriate monitoring and auditing services to ensure smooth functioning of the cooperative movement,” he said in the paper, which was prepared for the Rural Development Pitso in Kang in 2013.

Once developed, he said, cooperatives should be independent of government control and guidance from civil servants who might not be appropriate advisors to the private sector business. The societies should develop networks across the country and facilitate supply of various goods produced especially in the area of indigenous products, artifacts, fish products, horticulture produce and poultry products from small scale producers.

“The initial target market for cooperatives, with the assistance of the EDD programmes could be the supplementary feeding programmes and school feeding programmes. Currently, most school feeding programmes are considered deficient in micronutrient content and supplies of horticulture and poultry could be introduced to improve its nutritional value. The society could also trade in ICT services and promote e-governance,” he said.

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