This presents preliminary findings of an ongoing private research on the topic: “Reviving cooperatives in Uganda: Strategies for effectiveness in this era of global financial crisis”, whose final report is expected to be launched in April, 2009. The objective of the study is to explore challenges of cooperative societies in Uganda as one of the development options for poverty alleviation and to explore strategies for reviving it in this era of global financial crisis. It is a desk review of existent literature and related documents; and interview of key persons in selected cooperative societies.
The paper establishes that in the wake of current financial crisis as the key challenge, characterized by reduction of remittances from Ugandans in the Diaspora; paltry donor grants and loans for investments; reduced prospect for tourism as a source of reliable foreign exchange earnings; and the increasing tendencies of local banks to shun giving out new loans (Kawuwa, 2008); there is more economic doom if no action is taken now. As is known, the crisis is more serious than the great depression. All major sectors of the global economy are affected. Recent reports suggest that the systems of Letters of Credit as well as international shipping, which constitute the lifeline of the international trading system, are potentially in jeopardy (Chossudovsky, 2008). It is no surprise, therefore, that there is need for innovative policies that are more inward looking if the economy is to be sustained.
The paper agrees that Uganda government’s current promotion of SACCOs (Savings and Credit Cooperative Organizations) is an indicator of how the government believes in the important role of cooperatives in the development process. Unfortunately, SACCOs are plagued with institutional challenges such as ineffective communication, incredible regulators , and massive marginalization of women.
The paper argues that for cooperatives to contribute to effective fight against poverty and meet the MDGs by 2015, policy innovations should include, amongst others: •Amending the cooperative law in order to protect the cooperatives from state functionaries and dominance entrenched by vested interests in eroding the little capacity that exist. Uganda’s politicians could learn from their counterparts in Denmark who do not interfere in the activities of cooperatives, but contribute to the growth of cooperatives societies as independent people’s fora (Nakabuga, 2008). The amendment should also allow cooperatives to be more business oriented and member owned (Nakabuga, Ibid.). All these would be consistent with UN Secretary General’s appeal to governments, on the International Day of Cooperatives July 2008, to carry out measures and regulations that will be supportive of partnerships with cooperative enterprises . •Strengthening the internal capacities among existing member societies, by giving members a voice and to hold the district and federal levels officials accountable for their actions. Much also need to be done to improve the transparency and accountability, especially at lower level of primary societies . •Gender mainstreaming of cooperatives activities, by allowing access of women to resources, markets and decisions makings on all matters to do with cooperative activities.
Key words: Cooperatives, Poverty, Effectiveness, Gender, Global, Financial, Crisis, Uganda.
References 1.Kawuwa, D. (2008), “Credit crisis offers opportunities”, in the Saturday Monitor, December 13, No. 341, p.24. 2.Chossudovsky, M. (2008), The Great Depression of the 21st Century: Collapse of the Real Economy. Centre for Research on Globalization, November, 15. Accessed at http://www.globalresearch.ca on 06/02/2009 3.Nakabuga, R. (2008), “Uganda: Government should strengthen cooperatives”, The New Vision, 29 December, 2008. Accessed on http://allafrica.com/stories/200812300072.html