The International Co-operative Alliance Africa organized a Commissioners, Registrars, Directors and Co-operative Leaders/Managers Forum in Maseru, Lesotho between 30th May and 1st June, 2016.
The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the contributions of cooperative enterprises to the economies of African countries, and participants included commissioners or representatives of the ministries in charge of cooperatives, and managers or leaders of ICA members’ cooperatives from Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. Ms Regina Galhardi from the ILO Department of Statistics participated in the meeting by presenting the findings from a mapping exercise conducted by the ILO in 69 countries on the existing providers and sources of statistics on cooperatives used by countries; and their limitations and coverage, with special emphasis on the African countries surveyed. The results from the ILO presentation on the availability of statistics on cooperatives in general, and in African countries in particular, were welcomed by participants.
The discussion in the forum was centred on the situation in different African countries in terms of the availability of reliable data to assess cooperatives’ contribution to GDP, wealth creation, and the spillover effects for their communities in terms of economic stability, resources accumulation, among others. In many of these countries, the existing statistics on cooperatives show significant impacts on their GDP, but such statistics are not available for all countries or sectors. Thus the picture provided by these statistics is often incomplete and segmented.
The conclusions from the meeting, based on the presentations by national representatives of various countries, include:
- Socio-economic data on cooperatives is to be available in some countries, but it is often scattered, and not harmonized in a common database;
- The most common type of data is on the number of cooperatives, disaggregated by sex, age and sector of activity, and on financial cooperatives (SACCOs);
- There is no common and cross country definition of sectors and types of cooperatives;
- The percentage of women membership is high and/or increasing in most of the countries but they are underrepresented in Tanzania, for instance;
- The use of ICT is low, especially in those cooperatives that are based in rural areas. Their accounting is performed manually in most of the countries, with the exception of those with high level of literacy such as Zimbabwe. Others such as Lesotho said to have literacy level to use ICT but still have not reliable evidence and figures to corroborate this assertion.
The lack of data and systematic data collection was acknowledged, and the need for better statistics on cooperatives’ contribution to national economies was recognized.
The forum highlighted some of the key actions on the way forward for improved statistics on cooperatives, both for the governments as well as commissioners, registrars, directors and cooperative leaders. These recommendations include the development of a single nationally harmonized cooperative register; and regular data collection practice based on a harmonized methodology. In addition, improving the collaboration between cooperatives and National Statistical Offices was emphasised.