By Meshack Ngangi
The Co-operative University of Kenya (CUK) co-hosted a Participatory and Dialogue Forum on Evidence and Action to Strengthen Co-operatives in Kenya with the US Overseas Co-operative Development Council (OCDC) at Serena Hotel, Nairobi on Friday, August 25, 2023. Hon. Simon K. Chelugui, represented by Mr. El-Samma Ndegwa, officially opened the Forum and highlighted the centrality of Co-operatives in the government’s Bottom-up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA).
In his remarks, the Cabinet Secretary reiterated the government’s efforts in enacting legal and institutional interventions for economic transformation through the co-operative business model. In the spirit of a revitalized economy and ensuring sustainable growth through BETA, Hon Chelugui noted that co-operatives are pivotal agents for this transformation since their potential is far-reaching. He outlined the new co-operative Act among several milestones his Ministry of Co-operatives and MSMEs Development has worked on to streamline, support, and optimize the productivity of the co-operative movement in Kenya throughout the seventeen (17) identified value chains.
This Participatory and Dialogue Forum among co-operators proves the CUK’s significant essence in the Co-operative Sector through partnerships and collaboration with key stakeholders in this industry with a keen interest in empowering communities. Further, the University pledged to engage in robust research to create knowledge for the co-operative sector and ensure that co-operators embrace new thinking in Kenya, East Africa Region, and globally while harnessing technology and innovation possibilities.
Speaking at the Forum, Dr. Judith Hermanson – Director of the Overseas Co-operative Development Council’s International Co-operative Research Group, expounded on research findings on what difference co-operatives make; a study conducted in Kenya focused on greater inclusion and effectiveness. Director Hermanson further expressed co-operatives’ significant role in ensuring resilience during unforeseen global shocks and calamities that threaten human existence, like the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Friday participatory and dialogue Forum drew several deliberations and key potentially transformative concerns and a turn-around for the co-operative industry. These included youth involvement in co-operative leadership for seamless transition and succession, utilizing the co-operatives as platforms to share universal healthcare information and attaining the government’s goal of universal healthcare, ensuring equitable education opportunities for both genders (male and female) to ensure women’s representation in co-operatives. Moreover, supporting the co-operative business model for sustained resilience to climatic shocks in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands and regions of Northern Kenya, rethinking the place of women, youth and integrating technological innovations into the core of the co-operative sector were among the issues of crucial concern discussed.