The Bill’s objective is to create a harmonised legislative framework that will facilitate co-operative societies to exploit their potential in the EAC region.
The public hearings to be conducted in all the region’s member states including Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi will later be handed to EALA Committee on Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resources to compile the report.
After receiving these comments, the Bill will go for the 2nd and then the 3rd readings in Parliament, where the comments will be further interrogated with the goal being to reach the Heads of States during their summit in December this year.
“The Bill went through the first reading in EALA in January; it has gone through the national Parliaments through the committees on regional integration and we have also met the ministers in charge of cooperatives in all the partner states,” Stephen Muchiri, CEO of Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF) said while giving an update on the draft Bill on Wednesday.
The federation has been spearheading the process and is working closely with EALA and all stakeholders to have it passed into law before December this year.
The Bill is intended to improve the respective national co-operative legislations in the five EAC partner states by adopting the good practices from the different country laws.
Muchiri says if passed into law, it will enhance the autonomy and independence of cooperatives which have over the years suffered from government interference.
“I think there has been too much government in many cooperatives societies in each of the partner states. For example the minister, commissioner or registrar dissolving a cooperative’s management team. And in the 70s, this actually created a lot of problems in the movements and that’s why many of them collapsed,” Muchiri said.
The common law will also provide a framework to facilitate cooperative business, which is highly dominated by agricultural-related activities and enterprises.
“There is a problem in terms of the market and we believe with cooperatives as it has been in other countries, that they actually have power in the market. Our idea is to actually see that farmers are price makers and not price takers. We want to increase value for our regional farmers,” Muchiri said.
The new law also proposes the formation of an East African Co-operative Society.