Concerted efforts are needed to promote cooperatives and ensure their better management so they play a core role in the transformation of citizenry wellbeing and national development, Francois Kanimba has said.
The Trade, Industry and East African Community Affairs minister was speaking during a cooperative consultative meeting in Kigali on Thursday.
The meeting brought together officials from the ministry, Rwanda Cooperative Agency, National Cooperative Confederation of Rwanda (NCCR), civil society organisations, among others, to discuss ways to make cooperatives beneficial to more people.
Participants formed a cooperative learning platform, where they will be discussing various issues affecting the progress of cooperatives.
Kanimba said past administrations had failed to streamline operations of cooperatives until a decade ago when Rwanda Cooperative Agency was created.
He cited mismanagement among the challenges still facing cooperatives.
“Now there is strong good will for change but we have not seen very exciting quick wins, particularly for those cooperatives that have been there for long,” he said.
“I am one of those who believe that changing the performance of cooperatives should be a collective responsibility. This problem cuts across; it is not unique to one organisation.”
The minister expressed optimism that the platform formed would make a difference.
Kanimba said that, for the cooperatives to be more productive and sustainable, there is need for ownership, better management and ambition, which should go hand-in-hand with savings and investment culture.
He stressed the importance of cooperatives in increasing citizens’ participation in national development through savings and investment.
“If you have a cooperative just owned by its board of directors, and its managers but the members of the cooperative don’t seem to be part of the game, this cooperative cannot achieve the expected benefits,” he noted.
“Cooperative means putting resources together to manage them according to the cooperative principles. Proper management is key to cooperatives success.”
Over 70 per cent of the cooperatives in the country are involved in processing but most of them operate below their capacity, according to Telesphole Mugwiza, the industrial development policy specialist at the ministry.
Mugwiza said this affects the Made-in-Rwanda campaign and costs the Government a lot in import of various raw materials.
He urged industry players to improve on what they do and ensure they cut down the cost of production to win local market.
“Sometimes we buy products just because they are imported, there is need for mindset shift on this,” Mugwiza said, adding that the ministry offers technical assistance and tool kits for Made-in-Rwanda promoters.
Francois Karangwa, the chairperson of a tea farmers’ cooperative, said capacity building among cooperative members could help improve their performance.
Concerns of transport bottlenecks due to poor roads in rural areas also came up.
“Farmers still find it hard to buy seeds, fertilisers and veterinary drugs at high prices. Farmers are the first players in industrial development but have no shares in industry, we need coops to have shares to benefit more from our efforts. Farmers and agriculture sector also need to have a research institution that focuses on finding quality seeds and fertilisers for special soil type,” he said.
Apollo Munanura, the Rwanda Cooperative Agency director-general, said efforts were underway to address capacity challenges, market and financing by working with banks.
There are over 3.2 million members of cooperatives grouped in over 8,000 cooperatives countrywide.