COOPERATIVE MOVEMENT

How cooperatives can help curb graft

In Summary

• Imagine a cooperative of plumbers who come together to bid for government plumbing jobs.

• The enactment of the National Cooperatives Policy and assigning more tenders and opportunities to cooperatives would, in turn, equitably distribute this nation’s wealth.

Alice Kosgei, CEO Kenya Highlands Sacco,Vincent Marangu director co-operatives banking Division at Co-operative Bank with Ali Noor Ismail, PS State Department of Co-operatives at the National Co-operative CEOs’ Workshop in Mombasa from 7th to 9th May under the theme ‘Technology and Innovation for Sustainable and Inclusive Development’.
Alice Kosgei, CEO Kenya Highlands Sacco,Vincent Marangu director co-operatives banking Division at Co-operative Bank with Ali Noor Ismail, PS State Department of Co-operatives at the National Co-operative CEOs’ Workshop in Mombasa from 7th to 9th May under the theme ‘Technology and Innovation for Sustainable and Inclusive Development’.
Image: courtesy

The dilemma of corruption in Kenya is that it ensures capital is accessed only by a privileged few.

These few also happen to be the most vile and selfish of us all. For it is only those who are willing to rape a nation that would be that corrupt.

The result of this is that the capital is only shared with close friends, family and money laundering outfits. Consequently, no matter how much is stolen, it remains domiciled among very few. 

This also means that the capital doesn't offer employment for the simple reason that a few people doing no work can access billions. Thus, they never have the need to employ more than a driver and a cook. Worse still, the looting is in billions and the generosity as low as two mites.

 
 

This environment has created a sense of despair among Kenyans. Everyone is thus waiting for their turn to eat, at the earliest appointment or election. What the government must now do is to find ways by which to ensure the national cake is more equitably distributed and that will not happen by building roads all over.

It will happen when there are methods to ensure that the weakest Kenyan has a chance to eat at the table of kings. At first, this seemed like a pipe dream until I realised that the cooperative movement still controls over 40 per cent of Kenya’s GDP and 35 per cent of its total savings. This means through cooperatives, the government can ensure that millions of Kenyans participate in the economy and access prosperity.

This is what I mean: Imagine a cooperative of plumbers who come together to bid for government plumbing jobs. This would mean a few things; first, that much of the work will be done by cooperative members and second, after work they will also have a share in the profits.

What is even more appealing is that the members will be less likely to be corrupt as there are no secrets in a crowd. In one such move, Kenya would have democratised wealth creation

The same scenario can be shown throughout the government structure and the people therein can benefit immensely. The cooperative movement is also a good way for the government to organise citizens and ease access to jobs. The internal vetting structures will also ensure quality standards no matter the type of co-operative. 

Sadly, however, of late, many cooperatives have folded due to mismanagement of member funds. This due to poor management practices that the government can easily solve by implementing the National Cooperatives Policy that would demand cooperatives keep auditors, file their books every three months and generally ensure they all run above board. It will behove our government to enact these regulations as they will strengthen co-operatives and hence the country and it's economy.

The policy would align cooperatives to the counties to ensure they reap maximum benefit from devolution by creating county-specific Cooperatives that would meet the needs and realities of certain counties. There is also a need to harness the power of the diaspora through Diaspora based saccos. There is also a need to create Sharia-compliant co-operatives. 

 

To boost the capital gap, there is also a need to create Investment cooperatives that would harness member funds to invest in housing, healthcare, clean and renewable energy to mention but a few.

This will go a long way in meeting the Big Four agenda. In fact, the policy also addresses the creation of industrial cooperatives that are owned and managed by the people who work in the manufacturing business.

 

The benefits are thus clear and the path to success is well lit under the cooperative movement. Better run and more innovative cooperatives are the future of our nation. And the government should take the front seat in making these recommendations a reality.

The impact of a nation that is full of cooperatives has one other advantage. That advantage is that cooperatives form natural lobby groups that will fight for the interests of their members.

This is critical to dealing with tribal politics. This is because cooperatives have common interests that go across the borders of tribe. A cooperative of masons would not be constituted of one tribe, neither is the harambee sacco.

These cooperatives should then become the campaign platforms for our country. Politicians should spend time campaigning by telling cooperatives what they will deliver for them in various sectors of Kenyan society.

It is my considered view that to build a better nation, the citizens and the government need to take a fresh look at the cooperative movement. We need to breath new life into them. The enactment of the National Cooperatives Policy and seeking to assign more tenders and opportunities to these cooperatives would, in turn, equitably distribute this nation’s wealth.