In Kenya there is a positive attitude towards the cooperative development business model and the cooperative brand is well recognized. Research by the weekly magazine ‘The East African’ shows that 75% of people preferred dealing with co-ops because they fairly price their products.
In the words of CAK President (The Cooperative Alliance of Kenya Limited):
‘People like this method (the cooperative development business model) of doing business’ (Marube 2018:13) and this attitude seems to be reflected in the growing number of co-operative and/or co-operative-like businesses and the number of members. Co-operatives are widely recognized in rural areas as they are ‘not altogether foreign to African concepts.’ (Wanyama 2009: 3-7 Co-operatives for African…; Schwettmann 2014: 4). On the contrary, they were rooted in local communities even before the colonial ‘introduction’ of this model and given their acceptance in the villages, survived the difficulties brought about by years of collectivism and following liberalization. Today they are recognized as having the ‘power to incorporate women affairs in their by-laws and develop positive outlook in the local communities by minimizing the cultural and religious challenges against women.’
On-going search for ways to improve performance.
Cooperatives are seen as ‘engines of growth’ through their potential to share information, build skills, share specialized knowledge and thus contribute to the quality of life, income generation, unemployment, equality – all important aspects. To ensure better performance, there is a continuous push to gather empirical data impacting the development of policies based on their results. Looking for better ways to do business and to adapt to changing global market conditions is an on-going concern and focus of Kenyan academics as well as practitioners.
Cooperative sector support.
The Cooperative Alliance of Kenya Limited (CAK) replaced the earlier National Apex in 2009, taking over the mandate for lobbying, advocacy, collaboration and networking. Other functions are to promote cooperative development, to unite the cooperative movement and to represent the cooperative interests on all matters of policy and legal framework, and to be the spokesperson of the cooperative movement in Kenya.
The structure of the Kenyan cooperative movement resembles a pyramid of four tiers:
- Primary cooperative societies are at the bottom of the pyramid
- Followed by secondary cooperative societies
- The National Cooperative Organizations (NACOs) form the third tier, and
- The Apex – the Cooperative Alliance of Kenya Limited is at the top of the of the pyramid.
If members do not gain, they find other ways to satisfy their needs.
Responsiveness to members’ needs is recognized as a key factor for driving co-operative success. Liberalization triggered a transformation in structural organization of co-operatives causing many of them to fail or be taken over by stronger entities. If members lost interest because of unmet needs, they did not engage or stay loyal, engaged in side-selling, generally lost interest, which caused the co-operative to diminish or cease operations (although not necessarily de-registering formally, thus high estimates of inactive co-operatives). (Wanyama, 2009: 26-28 Surviving…; 2009: 10-11 Cooperatives for African…). Similar processes affected federations or unions. If they did not provide to satisfy member needs, member societies withdrew or reorganized to provide needed services themselves. Compiled based on research in “Context Study Kenya”. By Barbara Czachorska-Jones, PhD.