Cooperatives can make economic diffference

The Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Rob Davies says there is a lot of work that still needs to be done in South Africa in order to ensure that cooperatives in the country occupy the same position in the economy that cooperatives in other countries do.

Minister Davies was delivering a keynote address at the International Cooperatives Day celebrations hosted by the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban over the weekend.

Davies said government, particularly the dti, had contributed immensely to the development and advancement of cooperatives in the country. These include interventions such as the Cooperatives Incentives Scheme which he said had benefited 315 cooperatives to the tune of R84 million just in the last financial year alone.

“Other than grants that we disperse to cooperatives through the incentive scheme, we assist them gain access to both international and regional markets. For instance, 150 cooperatives were assisted in this regard last year. This year, 20 cooperatives have been approved to participate in an exhibition in Chicago in the United States of America, this month. We have supported the organisations of cooperatives themselves in a number of international and regional engagements,” said Minister Davies.

However he admitted that all of these initiatives and interventions have not been sufficient despite government having raised its game in an effort to support cooperatives.  Enormous challenges still remained, he said.

“There is too little appreciation for the importance, significance and potential of cooperatives model in this country. Actually, too many people in South Africa think of cooperatives as something akin to welfare and charity. We are struggling to get an understanding that what defines cooperatives is not whether they are big or small, but that cooperatives are creative enterprises that can contribute enormously to the country’s economy due to their accessibility and the fact that they can be rolled out to other sectors of the economy,” said Minister Davies

He mentioned that there is a need to have dedicated packages of financial and non-financial services to support the development of cooperatives, big and small. To this end, the Cooperatives Act of 2005 has been amended. The amendment law seek to establish various cooperatives support institutions such as the Cooperatives Development Agency, Cooperatives Academy and the Cooperatives Tribunal.

The Cooperative Development Agency will provide financial and non-financial support services, whereas Cooperatives Academy will provide education and training. Lastly, the Cooperatives Tribunal will assist cooperatives in addressing and resolving the conflicts within their organisations and will provide judicious management support. .

Speaking at the same event, the President of the South African Apex Cooperative (Sanaco) Mr Lawrence Bale, also said that the potential of cooperatives as a form of business was still to be realised in South Africa. He pledged his organisation’s support for government’s efforts to raise the level of cooperatives in the country, adding that partnerships were being forged with other institutions including international and regional organisations.

A DTI Statement

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