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The Dividends /Rebates debate



 By Mary W. Kiema

The excitement and expectation that goes along with the declaration and payment of dividends and interest rebates is almost palpable.  The discussion begins a few months before the closure of the financial year with some Cooperatives offering advances in anticipation of the disbursement. 

The debate dominates the first four months of the year. Comparisons are made between Cooperatives and conclusions are drawn in regard to the rates given. The implication is that the higher the rate the better the Cooperative enterprise. This situation tends to relegate all other useful discussions to a lower rank. The stability of the organization or the source of the funds used for payment receives less attention from members.

  Dividends and interest rebates are arrived at after assessing all incomes generated from operations and those received from investments, minus, expenses for a specific financial period.  The difference is either a surplus or a loss. The rate is determined after making provisions required by law. This rate is therefore a product of a dynamic process that impacts the whole enterprise.  An increase in these rates requires a similar or higher increase in the pricing of the products offered by the enterprise. Charges for loans and other transactions impact the rates that are likely to be arrived at.  As one makes a choice of which organization to join, top of the mind for some is the history of dividends paid.  Members are spoiled for choice since the information on the rates paid is published for all to see.

A good number of Cooperatives are growing and performing well in key performance indicators. Their assets are well protected, they are liquid within allowed rates and have good signs of growth in membership. Despite all these, the members continue to clamour for higher rates of dividend and interest rebates with little regard to what effect this would have on the stability of their organization.

The Cooperative business model requires all members to contribute to a common pool to finance the operations. External funding comes as an exception. Similarly, Cooperatives serve members only. Most benefits experienced by members are generated from doing business with the same members. Some patronize the enterprise more than others. The net effect is felt by individual members in different ways. For a SACCO society, some save more and some borrow more giving rise to net savers and net borrowers.

 Occasionally a discussion on who should be rewarded between those who borrow or transact more with the Cooperative or those who save arises. In a different mode of appreciation, a portion of interest paid by a member as interest is refunded as patronage bonuses. The current mode across most Cooperatives is to reward members in proportion to their shares and deposits. The deposit-taking Saccos provide other avenues of investment in addition to the traditional dividends and rebates.

 The trend of paying dividends seems to ignore the reason why a particular organization was formed. Housing Cooperatives for example tend to forget their goal of providing affordable housing to members and embark on selling units at exorbitant rates to make dividends for the same exploited members. The rallying call of ‘not for profit but for service” does not seem to apply any more.

  This circumstance calls for policy intervention. Dividends and interest rebates are good for members but without well-thought-out policy guidelines, they have the potential of driving the enterprise in an undesired direction. The policy may provide for payments in either cash or shares. Offering shares as dividends helps in capitalization. The option to capitalize dividends voluntarily is encouraged in some cooperative societies. Those who have practised this, have grown their personal wealth and, have strengthened their organization. 

 A dividends policy is a requirement as per the Sacco regulation (2010) 60(4). It also provides that a Sacco society must comply with prudential standards relating to liquidity and asset quality before payments of dividends. This, therefore, means that a Sacco must be financially sound to be able to pay. The use of external funds for the payment of dividends is a bad practice.  The quality of the loan book for the financial Cooperatives must also be within the acceptable status.

So far payments have been made as a tradition that is well-understood and religiously followed by all interested parties. An entitlement mentality and political considerations tend to influence the decisions made.   To strengthen developments, organizations need to retain a portion of the income generated. A newly formed Cooperative society is confronted with a demand to pay dividends even before breaking even. A waiting period is necessary for the establishment of significant pillars. 

 Policies and procedures will serve to manage the expectations of all stakeholders.

The writer is a consultant on the Cooperative Business model, a member of the Kenya Society of professional Cooperators and founder of SACCOpreneurs group on facebook.

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Finance and Investment

How does a Cooperative arrive at an ideal board of directors’ composition?



By Mary W Kiema

As a group sets out to form an enterprise, their main concern is to meet their common needs through a business model that is suitable for most of them. Their requirements for the association will be formulated depending on the anticipated nature of the business. The form of business will inform the appropriate rules and subsequent regulations required. The interim governing body at this stage will be composed of some of the founder members who will be responsible for setting up the ground rules.

 In Cooperatives, the objects and membership requirements are contained in the bylaws. These by-laws are specific to an individual Cooperative society. A financial Cooperative for example will provide bylaws that attract members who have the capacity to save, borrow and repay promptly.

 A marketing Cooperative will reach out to the producers or developers of the desired products. At this point the most important assignment is to get numbers regardless of their gender or age provided that they can meet the membership conditions. As the Cooperative takes shape and begins to generate the desired results, the focus is directed to other areas of concern a simple scan through the composition of the membership of a number of Cooperative Societies, shows the dominance of the male gender. This is further evident at the board of directors level and in apex bodies. Attention has been drawn to this state of affairs and certain interventions are being explored to address this.

 As a requirement, a Cooperative Society observes the principle of open and voluntary membership. This means a Cooperative can attract members from diverse walks of life. These members have a right to democratically control their enterprise. The implementation of this democratic member control principle sometimes yields results that go against the tenets of inclusion.  The outcome may sometimes generate discussions that are geared towards attaining the desired status. This will only happen for an enterprise that is deliberately aiming at achieving an ideal position in governance. For most, the disparity goes without being attended to until it is pointed out from within or without.

 Since the promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, the matter of gender balance has continued to elicit a lot of discussion. The constitution being supreme, all other laws including the Cooperative laws are expected to align.

Enterprises that are private and opt for democratic member control grapple with the challenge of balancing between democracy, appropriate representation and inclusivity.  The desire is to not only have all stakeholders sufficiently represented in the decision-making but also to have an effective organ at the top. The growth and complexity of the Cooperative societies have also further complicated the equation. The qualification requirements for board members go beyond one being a member. To qualify for a board position, some Cooperatives require one to have a certain number of shares and amounts in deposits and to have attained a certain level of education or specific professionalism. This may be interpreted as an avenue for eliminating a particular category from leadership.  With all these hurdles, how does a Cooperative arrive at an ideal board of directors’ composition?

This governance challenge is not an easy one to resolve but it may be the missing link towards addressing issues that have remained in the background for a long time.  As the ground is being levelled to bring all players into the fold, some interventions will be required. The absence of youthful members in the movement may be attributed to their inability to ascend to the decision-making table.   The board of directors are drawn from members, therefore, for youth and women to be on the board they must first be found in the membership. With enough numbers, the electoral zones may be created in a manner that will give all eligible members a chance to serve at the top.

Among the interventions evident include the formation of women and youth networks. Some of these networks have developed elaborate programs to equip the participants with an array of leadership skills that are geared at enhancing inclusivity in institutions. The emphasis is on youth and women because they have been seen to have been left behind although these skills are required across the board. The situation is slowly changing with more women taking up jobs at all levels and being able to participate with others in the management of the organization they belong to. The youths are also encouraged to form workers’ Cooperatives where they can contribute their skills as they grow their unique enterprises.

 Apart from achieving the right composition in terms of demographics, the main concerns have lately turned to the effectiveness of the board. Some skills are wanted among the board. It is for this reason that the issue of accommodating independent directors who have specific skills keeps coming up. One step at a time with the right intentions, an ideal situation will be achieved.

 The writer is a consultant on Co-operative Business Model, a member of the Kenya Society of Professional Cooperators and founder of the SACCOprenuers group on Facebook

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SACCO Strategic Plans under Threat, Expert Says



By Ngumbo Njoroge

Savings and Credit Cooperative Organizations (SACCOs) have been advised to stay vigilant against the volatility of the business environment and align their long-term strategic plans to adapt to the changing landscape.

The recent years have presented SACCOs with an unprecedented challenge as business volatility disrupts their carefully crafted strategies, compelling them to reassess their operations and embrace flexibility.

According to Mr Joshua Wambua, a leadership expert, the Coronavirus pandemic and rapid technological changes are major factors contributing to business volatility. He emphasized the need for SACCOs to regularly review their strategic plans at short intervals and assign an officer to monitor the business environment for potential threats.

“Constantly reviewing SACCO strategic plans and monitoring the business environment is crucial. This provides boards and management with up-to-date information on any changes that may impact their strategies,” Mr Wambua stated during the annual Chairpersons and Vice-Chairpersons Forum.

Mr Wambua highlighted the importance of this monitoring process, explaining that without it, SACCOs may continue to invest member resources into strategies that fail to yield desired results. By constantly reevaluating and aligning their plans, SACCOs can re-engineer themselves to adapt to the evolving business landscape, ensuring the best use of resources and ultimately benefiting their members.

During the forum, Mr Wambua urged SACCOs to devote resources to exploring new digital frontiers and building partnerships. He emphasized that embracing technological advancements and fostering collaborations are crucial steps in overcoming business volatility and securing a prosperous future.

“You must have the courage to be future makers, willing to explore new digital frontiers to reimagine today’s world for a better tomorrow,” he encouraged SACCOs.

The SACCOs’ response to the challenges posed by business volatility will determine their long-term sustainability and ability to support their members effectively. By staying vigilant, regularly reviewing their strategic plans, and leveraging technological advancements, SACCOs can navigate the unpredictable business environment and seize opportunities for growth and success.

As SACCOs continue to face uncertainties in the economic landscape, the expert advice provided by Mr Wambua serves as a guiding light, urging them to adapt, innovate, and collaborate to safeguard the interests of their members and ensure their resilience in the face of ever-changing business dynamics.

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Shofco SACCO Launches New Office as Membership Crosses 15,000



By Evans Maritim

Shofco SACCO Society inaugurated its new state-of-the-art office in Kibera as its membership surpassed 15,000, marking a significant milestone since its establishment seven years ago.

The headquarters, situated at Koyaro Building along Kibera Drive, will serve as the SACCO’s main hub, with branches in Kawangware, Mathare, Mukuru, Kisumu, Mombasa, and Kakamega.

Dr. Kennedy Odede, Chairman of Shofco SACCO, expressed gratitude for the growth achieved and highlighted the journey from humble beginnings. “We started this SACCO in an iron sheet house, moved to a container, and now we have a big office. We have over 15,000 members now and counting. We thank God for how far we have come,” he stated.

Dr. Odede, having grown up in Kibera slums, witnessed the injustices faced by slum residents and transformed the adversity into an opportunity for the underprivileged when he embarked on this venture seven years ago. He aimed to promote financial inclusivity, allowing people living in slums to have their own SACCO for saving and borrowing money with dignity. The SACCO has become the largest financial institution catering to the slum community, granting them a sense of self-worth and support.

Mr. Ibrahim Maina, Senior Manager at Shofco SACCO, emphasized their focus on developing youth-friendly products and implementing ICT systems to enhance member access to funds.

The SACCO is in the process of procuring a robust system comprising an MIS portal, USSD, App, and Interactive Web Portal. Mr. Maina highlighted the importance of the USSD feature for members without smartphones, who make up the majority.

The SACCO targets individuals without collateral, offering loan facilities to aspiring entrepreneurs. As long as a person is a member and demonstrates the ability to conduct business and repay the loan, they are eligible to receive financial assistance.

In the next six months, the SACCO plans to open another main branch office, either in Mombasa or Kisumu, to expand its reach.

Dolphin Aremo, County Director of Co-operatives, commended Shofco SACCO for its rapid growth within just seven years. She expressed appreciation for the SACCO’s significant achievements, highlighting the contrast with other institutions that have existed for over two decades without establishing a proper office space.

Since its inception, the SACCO has disbursed over Sh580 million in loans to its members. Deposits have grown from Sh76 million in 2021 to Sh126 million in 2022, while loans to members increased from Sh87 million in 2021 to Sh148 million in 2022.

Beneficiaries of Shofco SACCO shared inspiring stories of transformation. Dennis Owino used a loan from the SACCO to purchase a car for his taxi business. With the income generated, he then ventured into opening a boutique. Veronica David from Kawangware saved for six months with the SACCO, enabling her to borrow money. She utilized the funds to restock her business and resolve her children’s school fees challenges. She now operates a successful grocery shop and has aspirations to purchase land and build her own house.

Shofco SACCO’s achievements exemplify how financial inclusivity can empower marginalized communities, ushering in economic transformations and instilling hope where it was once lost.

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