The chairperson of Botswana Co-operative Association, Smarts Shabani says they need to revamp cooperative societies and invest in different sectors of the economy like tourism, transport, property and manufacturing as it has shown that they can yield positive economic results. In an interview on the sidelines of the 11th Africa Co-operative ministerial conference in Gaborone last week Shabani said they want to take advantage of the recently launched Economic Stimulus Programme by President Ian Khama.
Co-operatives used to be one of the engines for economic growth for the rural and urban communities through ownership of businesses, but poor management has seen most of them closing shop and their property and assets auctioned by creditors. Shabani said the leadership of cooperatives must start thinking outside the box. Shabani said co-operative societies used to be the backbone of the economy but with the arrival of big businesses in the country, most of them failed to adapt to the new environment which led to their collapse. “Another challenge that we faced was poor management which led to corruption and some members of the co-operatives tasked with managing them used the profits for their own benefits,” said Shabani.
One of the worrying factors for co-operatives in Botswana is lack of interest by the youth to enroll into the scheme and Secretary General Western Ebepile said that they want Botswana to adopt the Lesotho system. “In Lesotho cooperatives have been integrated into the curriculum and has worked wonders for them and currently we are advocating for government to do that,” said Ebepile.
Giving a keynote address acting President Mokgweetsi Masisi said Botswana has always recognised the role played by co-operatives in the communities as a model business that can be used to reach out not only to urban populace but also to rural communities to eradicate poverty and reduce unemployment. “This Government recognises that Co-operatives know no boundaries and traverse the breadth of any economy, and have footprints the world over,” said Masisi.
Masisi revealed that a total of 219 co-operatives societies with a membership of 112 332 have been registered in Botswana and together employ over 500 people.
Masisi who said that he has been a member of Moshupa Co-operative society for more than 30 years acknowledged that not all co-operatives societies are operating at their full potential due to a variety of challenges which he said are attributed to both external and internal factors. In ensuring that co-operative societies are viable and sustainable as business entities, Vice President said that government developed a co-operative transformation strategy. “Through the pillars of the Strategy, we will develop new generation Co-operatives based on modern business practices,” said Masisi adding that the strategy resonates well with Africa Co-operative Development Strategy 2013-2016.
African Co-operative Development Strategy is aimed at addressing the African Co-operative Movements special developmental goals in order to improve members’ socio economic situation by leveraging on the benefits of co-operative enterprise. Masisi who has been tasked with job creation by the cabinet said that the strategy also resonates with Economic Stimulus Programme and urged co-operative members to take advantage of it.
Swaneng Co-operative Society in Serowe was the first cooperative society in Botswana founded by Patrick Van Rensburg.