By Samwel Mwangi
Co-operative leaders drawn from all over the world will meet for the 33rd World Co-operative Congress, a global meeting to deepen cooperative identity.
Initially scheduled to be held in November 2020 but postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Congress will be held in Seoul, South Korea from 1 to 3 December 2021.
“This will be an opportunity to share experiences of resilience in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and discuss how co-operatives can overcome other global challenges from climate change to gender equality. Together we can create a better, fairer and more inclusive world for generations to come,” said Ariel Guarco, the President of the ICA.
The theme for the event will be “Deepening our Cooperative Identity” to strengthen the cooperative movement’s role in addressing global challenges and also explore avenues to improve lives at the local and global levels.
Mr Guarco added: “Cooperation is not only good for addressing crises. Cooperation is the alternative way to build a fairer, more balanced and fundamentally, less fragile economy in the face of global challenges.”
He added that the cooperative identity, values and principles have remained strong and are the foundation for cooperatives worldwide to help communities survive and cope following the pandemic.
The Alliance celebrated 125th years since its founding in 1895 to promote the interests of co-operatives worldwide, and the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the ICA Statement on the Cooperative Identity which was adopted on 21 September 1995.
“The 33rd World Cooperative Congress will enable the cooperative movement to explore its identity to build a more secure future. Using the current global crisis as a framework, discussions will aim to deepen the cooperative identity by examining its values, strengthening its actions, committing to its principles and living its achievements.”
In a statement, ICA said the cooperative identity unites members to work for the common good, giving millions of people control of their lives, future, and serve as a strong foundation that sets co-operatives apart from other types of enterprises.
“Innovation and entrepreneurship are more important than ever in facing today’s complex global economy. The people-centred cooperative model nurtures talent, creativity and encourages innovative ideas to create a more humane and inclusive society,” ICA said.
In addition, the global body said the event signals commitment to bring together the cooperative movement during a challenging yet critical time.
“This event will allow the cooperative movement to strengthen our relationships with each other, our role in improving global economy, and to share with our partners that we have proven solutions to many of the global challenges the world is facing today,” said Li Chunsheng, president of ICA Asia and Pacific.
Park Cha Hoon, President of the Council of Korean Cooperatives, co-hosts for this event, said: “We are very much looking forward to welcoming cooperators to Seoul. At the 33rd World Cooperative Congress, we will get a glimpse of what cooperative identity means for Korean cooperatives, and how co-ops can help drive sustainable development in communities.”
Kenyan Women Among 12 Recipients of Global Women’s Leadership Network Scholarships
By Samwel Mwangi
Kenyan women continue to make strides in leadership and professional development as two women from the country are among the 12 recipients of the Global Women’s Leadership Network (GWLN) scholarships for 2023.
The program, which is open to women in the Credit Union industry globally, officially inducted the recipients into its network, providing them with opportunities for professional development, networking, and skill diversification.
Evelyn Olunja and Jane Ndambiri, both from Kenya, were awarded scholarships to attend the year-long virtual engagement program. The program will focus on leadership growth, and the scholars will have access to eLeaderHUB by eLeadership Academy, semi-annual EVOLVE Workshops, monthly live webinars and micro-trainings, as well as the Women in Global Development Leadership Forum (WILD Network), among other events. The scholarship will enable the recipients to expand their skill sets and grow their leadership abilities through a global network.
Additionally, Naddian Abraham-Damier and Mercy Tumukunde from Dominica and Uganda, respectively, will attend the in-person engagement program. They will attend the World Credit Union Conference (WCUC) in Vancouver, Canada, in July, co-hosted by the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) and the Canadian Credit Union Association (CCUA). The event will include travel, hotel accommodation, and a stipend.
Lena Giakoumopoulos, the GWLN Director, noted that the organization was excited to offer a larger number of scholarships in 2023, and 12 scholars were selected from a record number of more than 60 applicants. She added that the new synergies have proven beneficial for the growth of the scholarship program and the organization’s effort to engage more women through the global credit union system.
The scholarships and empowerment grants are made possible through funding from annual memberships and corporate donations from Co-op Solutions, CUNA Mutual Group, PSCU, and the Susan Adams Scholarship Fund supported by One AZ Credit Union. Since 2009, GWLN has awarded 100 scholarships to women from 30 countries.
The GWLN scholarship program has been instrumental in promoting gender equity in the credit union industry by supporting women’s professional growth and leadership. The scholarship program is not only an opportunity for the recipients to develop professionally, but also for the credit union industry to support gender equity, a crucial factor in promoting diversity, inclusivity, and organizational success.
The recognition of Kenyan women in the 2023 GWLN scholarship program is a testament to their dedication to professional growth and leadership in the credit union industry. The program offers them a platform to network, diversify their skills, and learn from other professionals globally. The program is expected to boost the recipients’ careers and position them for more significant leadership roles, ultimately promoting gender equity in the industry.
Digitalization tops priorities for SACCOs globally
SACCOs around the world are keen to embrace the digitalization of services to members, with the findings of a global survey showing 71 per cent of associations ranking this as a top priority.
The survey conducted by the World Council of Credit Unions and published in the World Council’s 2021 Statistical Report shows that national associations on every continent, except North America, consider digitalization a top priority.
“Digitalization in the financial sector has become a trend at the market level. It generates competitiveness, and the generational analysis demands getting in on modern digital systems.”
The report provides sets of new data obtained from national-level Credit Union associations in more than 40 countries and six regions of the world.
Digitalization, growth in membership and regulatory reform emerged as the top priorities for the SACCOs around the world.
66 per cent of the respondents ranked growth in membership and assets as a top priority.
“European, African and Asian respondent credit union associations scored this as a top priority, with that number dropping to 50 per cent or less for countries in the western hemisphere.”
Regulatory reform was the top priority for respondent credit union associations in North America (100 per cent) and the Caribbean (80 per cent), with 50 per cent of European and 40 per cent of African credit unions also identifying it as key to their strategic priorities.
Further, the Survey identified the global economic environment, technology and regulation as areas of risk.
Australia listed this as a top concern with 82 per cent of credit union associations in Europe, 60 per cent in Africa and 57 per cent in Asia.
“In the present economic condition, the salaries of credit union personnel are very poor compared to other sectors. This is why credit unions do not have as skilled or talented personnel. But skilled personnel is one of the important key factors to sustain in this competitive market,” said the Co-operative Credit Union League of Bangladesh in the report.
Technology is a large area of concern in Africa ( 100 per cent), Latin America (67 per cent) and Asia (57 per cent).
“The response to technological advances is not always adequate, mainly due to the purchasing power of co-operatives, as well as a marked aversion to change, which can lead to significant backwardness in the level of competition in the market.”
Half of the respondent credit union associations in North America and Europe listed regulation as a top risk, along with 40 per cent in Caribbean countries.
The survey shows that there are about 44 million SACCO members in Africa, drawn from 41,067 Societies. Kenya has 9.9 million members, the highest in Africa.
World’s Top Co-operatives joint turnover falls to $2.17 trillion
By Samwel Mwangi
The joint turnover of the world’s top 300 co-operatives fell to US$2.17 trillion from US$2.18 trillion, according to the latest edition of the World Co-operative Monitor.
Released by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA), the monitor lists the top 300 co-operatives and mutuals based on turnover and sector rankings, employment data, and includes a chapter on the challenges and opportunities brought by digitisation.
In its 11th edition, the report is produced by ICA with the scientific and technical support of the European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises (Euricse).
The 2022 edition is based on 2020 financial data. Ranked in the first place by turnover is Groupe Crédit Agricole from France ($88.97bn), followed by retailer REWE Group from Germany ($77.93bn), the Cooperative Financial Network from Germany (BVR) ($58.02bn), agricultural co-op Zen-Noh from Japan ($57.69bn), and ACDLEC Leclerc from France ($54.83bn).
Most enterprises in the Top 300 by turnover are producer co-operatives, mainly representing agricultural and retailers’ co-operatives (126, to which is added one producer/consumer), followed by mutuals (84) and consumer/user co-operatives (71).
11 of the top 300 are non-co-operatives controlled by co-operatives, while only five are worker co-operatives and two are multi-stakeholder.
The results are similar in the Top 300 based on turnover over GDP per capita, but there are more consumer/user co-operatives than mutuals, respectively 84 and 67 organisations. The countries with the most enterprises in the top are the USA (71), France (42), Germany (31) and Japan (22).
The co-operative topping the ranking based on turnover over the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (Iffco) from India. A producer co-operative, Iffco is followed by another Indian business, the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation; financial co-op Groupe Crédit Agricole; healthcare co-op Sistema Unimed from Brazil; REWE Group from Germany.
In the Top 300 by turnover over GDP per capita, the agriculture sector is predominant with 101 organisations. The insurance sector has 85 enterprises in the top 300 while the wholesale and retail trade has 57. The financial service sector is more prominent in this ranking with 41 enterprises compared to 26 enterprises in the Top 300 by turnover.
The monitor also explores the impact of digitisation, particularly in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis. The findings are based on a survey of co-ops in 27 countries, carried out by the ICA’s International Cooperative Entrepreneurship Think Tank.
Respondents to the survey said they are aware of the importance of digital tools that cut across different functions of corporate life and recognise that “something fundamental has changed in the way co-operatives are managed”. About one in ten co-operatives consider themselves to be poorly digitalised.
Eight out of ten co-operatives interviewed said it was essential to use digital tools to sell goods and services online and manage relationships with customers and suppliers. A quarter of the respondents consider these only “quite important”.
The key areas for co-operatives regarding the use of digital tools are IT system security (70 per cent), management software (48 per cent), e-commerce (41 per cent), cloud computing and remote management of services and infrastructure (41 per cent), and communication and web and social media content creation (37 per cent).
The survey found all co-operatives have activated online modes of participation in their general meetings. The report notes that although digital tools have ample potential in engaging members unable to attend the meetings in person, they have also shown limitations in engaging certain categories of members unfamiliar with the use of technologies. Over half of the co-operatives surveyed also see the potential of digital tools to involve members in the co-creation of services and goods and to promote interaction among members.
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