Co-opetition is a strategy that balances both competition and cooperation in business. It describes a business situation in which independent parties cooperate with one another and coordinate their activities, thereby collaborating to achieve mutual goals, but at the same time compete with each other as well as with other firms.
This way, businesses strategically work together to realise common goals and at the same time compete with each other depending on conflicting benefits.
The result is always a win-win situation, in that each member company or individual increase their economic power among many other advantages.
This strategy is especially helpful for SMEs, which have scarce resources. Some basic mathematics here; one individual or company may not be in a position to raise Rwf100m capital, but a collaboration of say 20 individuals or companies each with Rwf5m means can raise this capital.
I applaud the Government of Rwanda for embracing this principle through its effort on promoting the cooperative movement through the creation of the Rwanda Cooperative Agency (RCA) with the mission of regulating and assisting nationwide cooperative developments.
This article will focus on the Agakiriro initiative, its creation, success and lessons that can be useful in Kigali’s future urban development.
The project was initially developed from the association of different small organisations and individual artisans and craftsmen, who accepted to work together and organised themselves into work groups to promote their profession, enhance job creation and achieve improvement of the members’ welfare.
Indeed, the akagiriro project has increased youth employability not only in Kigali but also in the rural areas, which further helps fight the bug of ‘rural-urban migration’, which is every city’s nightmare.
This project has seen up to hundreds of youth acquire entrepreneurship skills to a level where they begin to set up handcraft businesses such as carpentry, mechanics, plumbing, skin & hides’ works, welding, mechanical works, pottery, etc.
This success can be clearly traced in the promising trajectile recently taken by Kigali’s traditional Agakinjiro centre that was based in Muhima Sector of Nyarugenge District, whose origin dates back to 1980s as a typical workshop centre employing dozens of unskilled youths and offering cheap domestic equipment and utensils.
Evidently, the project has expanded rapidly and climaxed when the Government supported its move to the new site in Gisozi Sector of Gasabo District. The project returned the favour of this mega empowerment and boost by modernising quickly into new state-of-the-art facilities for better businesses, including modern buildings and infrastructure such as road networks.
The new agakiriro, recognised as a cooperative movement with a total number of 338 members organised into two cooperatives – ADARWA (Association pour le Développement de l’Artisanat au Rwanda)and APARWA (Association pour la Promotion des Artisans du Rwanda) – aim at the improvement of the socio-economic well-being of its members and the country’s development in general.
ADARWA has 157 members, who are mainly furniture manufacturers, whereas APARWA has 181 members, mainly artisans. It is undisputable that each of these members has emerged with new and entrepreneurial power by being elevated to a much stronger business base and access to huge capital, that would otherwise have been difficult, if not impossible, to raise as an individual. As the Swahili saying goes ‘kidole kimoja hakivunji chawa’ (one finger cannot kill a flea).
Artisan production has become increasingly popular in both rural and urban areas due to high demand from the construction sector and clearly these cooperatives have reasonable potential to produce quality products that could compete favourably in the regional market.
Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) schools have also come in handy to fill in the skills gap by offering quick courses to the artisans. With all support factors from all ends, it is highly expected that the Agakiriro effect will spread like bush fire across the rural areas and this will certainly boost the national economy.
In addition to the capacity building, the new developments have further facilitated the mushrooming of many other shops and businesses such as hardware stores and pulled closer transport entrepreneurs. In urban design, the word ‘urban acupuncture’ is used to explain this scenario; where by small-scale interventions are used to transform the larger urban context.
Although in this case Gisozi may have been a default site, in ideal situations site selection is a lengthy process involving analysis of aggregate social, economic and ecological factors, which are consistently developed through a dialogue between designers and the community.
This is a success story that all businesses in Rwanda need to borrow a leaf from. Together we can achieve more! The five million Rwandan Francs in your account may not do much, but putting it into a basket where other members also pull their resources might result into a great project.
For instance, to complete the complex in Gisozi, 150 members of ADARWA contributed Rwf2.5 million each, which constituted 40 per cent of the total cost. ADARWA thereafter approached the Development Bank of Rwanda (BRD) for a loan to finance the other 60 per cent.
Kigali’s future urban development will definitely benefit from this and many other great ideas in the pipeline.
The writer is a lecturer at the School of Architecture, University of Rwanda and an architect and urban designer with keen interest on the dialectical relations between Architecture and Society.