, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 22 – Kenya’s Cooperative movement has been urged to diversify its product portfolio to enhance growth of the economy.
Speaking during the official launch of the African Ministerial Cooperative Conference in Nairobi, President Mwai Kibaki said cooperatives offer the greatest impact on the economic and social well being of most Kenyans but the movement had not met its full potential.
The President said diversification into different sectors would ensure more people are able to maximise on the benefits of cooperative societies.
At the moment, most cooperative societies focus on agriculture, financial and savings services.
He noted there was need to maximise on the contributions to the country’s economy by cooperative societies, arguing they had been least hit by the economic down turn.
“Unlike other financial institutions, cooperatives have continued to focus on their customers’ well being rather than on profits.”
President Kibaki however said the lack of appeal of the cooperative movement to the youth, had been a major stumbling block to its prosperity. He said in its current form, it was more suitable towards the older and more educated generation.
“The movement has to make itself more appealing and economically relevant to the youth and be adaptive to technology to discharge its duties,” he said.
Kenya has one of the strongest cooperative movements in Africa, accounting for over 50 percent of the total cooperative turnover on the continent.
It also has close to eight million registered members with an asset base estimated to be over to Sh200 billion. President Kibaki called for fast tracking of the formulation of innovative policies that are economically relevant and adaptive to modern technology which can address the existing social disparities and engage more people into economic development.
“The cooperative movement is known for its ability to combat exploitation, and is capable of building a more just society.”
On his part, Cooperatives Minister Joseph Nyaga said his ministry was working towards becoming a major player in transport, tourism and ICT as it seeks to diversify its offering to Kenyans.
Africa President and Global International Cooperative Alliance Vice-President Stanley Muchiri said adoption of technology would improve cooperative society’s ability to improve in service delivery as well as offer a platform on which to develop new products, which he says has been “wanting”.
But at the same time Mr Muchiri said the government needed to respect the autonomy of the movement arguing it would ensure the sector grows to its full capacity.
“Existing government should then provide an enabling environment for the development of cooperative societies in its midst,” he said.
Kenya National Federation of Co-operatives Chief Executive Francis Munane said they had acquired a “.coop” domain to enhance its capability in discharging online services.