13 March 2012
South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is set to increase support for co-operatives in the country by establishing a Co-operatives Development Agency and Tribunal.
“The DTI is in the process of identifying programmes and products to ensure that we are supporting sustainable co-operatives that can play a meaningful role in the economic and social development of its members,” Deputy Trade and Industry Minister Elizabeth Thabethe said on Monday.
Thabethe was speaking at the launch of the International Year of Co-operatives in Johannesburg.
According to Wikipedia, a co-operative (or co-op) is an autonomous association of people who voluntarily cooperate for their mutual social, economic, and cultural benefit. They include non-profit community organisations that are owned and managed by the people who use their services (consumer co-operatives) and/or by the people who work there (worker co-operatives).
“We will be establishing the Co-operatives Development Agency that will ensure that financial and non-financial support is more readily available to cooperatives,” Thabethe said. “We are also establishing the Co-operatives Tribunal that will assist cooperatives in addressing and resolving the conflicts within their organisations and will provide judicious management support.”
Co-operative Incentive Scheme
Development challenges faced by co-operatives will also be addressed, with several support interventions designed by the department. The DTI will increase funds for the Co-operative Incentive Scheme to ensure that larger numbers of co-operatives are able to gain access to financial support so as to operate their businesses.
“We will be assisting in the promotion of secondary marketing co-operatives to address the challenge co-operatives face in accessing markets,” Thabethe said, adding that throughout the course of the year, the department would implement various initiatives to contribute to the United Nations’ International Year of Cooperatives.
She said the year would help the department to increase awareness of the role played by co-operatives in the social and economic development of their members.
The president of the South African National Cooperatives, Lawrence Bale, called on members of co-operatives to take advantage of the International Year of Cooperatives by coming together to speak in one voice in order to increase their strength and influence.
‘Make land available to co-ops’
Bale called on the government to make land available to co-operatives, as most of them were in the agricultural sector.
“We need to mobilise co-operatives and give them the necessary support in order for them to grow into sustainable enterprises, which contribute meaningfully to the country’s economy,” he added.
The chairperson of the National Apex Cooperative Federation of South Africa, Wellings Maseko, appealed to the government to place co-operatives at the centre of national planning.
“We need to increase awareness among members of society about the role that co-operatives play in the socio-economic development of our country, promote their growth and ensure that proper policies, laws and regulations are put in place in order promote their formation and growth,” Maseko said.
The director of the International Labour Organisation in Pretoria, Nic van Vuuren, said co-operatives played a crucial role in job creation and the alleviation of poverty.