‘Cooperatives growth govt’s priority’
SMALL Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing Minister, Thabiso Litšiba, says government would soon establish an agency to support cooperatives to ensure they remain operational.
Mr Litšiba made the remarks on Thursday during belated International Day of Cooperatives commemorations at the Lesotho Cooperatives College (LCC) in Maseru.
International Day of Cooperatives commemorations have been held annually on the first Saturday of July since 1923 around the world to celebrate the cooperatives movement. However, in Lesotho they were deferred owing to the harsh winter weather conditions. Held under the theme, “Choose cooperatives, choose equality”, the commemorations focused on equality in cooperative ownership as a path to sustainable development.
“The most important pillars in the formation of cooperatives are participatory decision-making and the equal sharing of profits and responsibilities,” said Mr Litšiba.
“However, many times we have had to question whether those guidelines are being observed in practice. I have noticed that oftentimes a few committee members take over decision-making at the exclusion of the others, resulting in funds being abused by two or three people.”
The minister said the establishment of a supporting agency would prevent the collapse of many cooperatives which was mainly caused by the misappropriation of funds.
“Because of such malpractices, most cooperatives lack good leadership in as far as managing their finances is concerned. They are unable to account for their expenditure and fail to engage all members equally as should be the case,” he said.
“To address these challenges, the government is in the process of establishing an institution to support financial cooperatives which will be unveiled after a complete review of the draft policy on financial cooperatives.”
Mr Litšiba said the government was committed to ensuring cooperatives develop into sustainable businesses.
“We intend to prioritise the development of primary and secondary level cooperatives which have been overlooked for a long time in favour of large businesses hence government’s decision to establish this ministry,” he said.
“We want stakeholders such as banks to not only consider large businesses but also small ones. Now is the time for cooperatives to become independent and develop from small, medium to large businesses.”
The minister also allayed fears that government would close down Lesotho Cooperatives College, saying they were actually in the process of restructuring the college to accommodate practical cooperatives.
“At the moment, we have decided to focus on primary and secondary cooperatives which are practical and operational. We want to restructure the curriculum offered at Lesotho Coop. College to satisfy the demands of these cooperatives which have the potential to grow the economy and have been proven to sustain livelihoods,” Mr Litšiba said.
Speaking on behalf of youth cooperatives, Innovative Youth Marketing and Consultancy Cooperative spokesperson, Lebitsa Thinyane, appealed to government to formulate a youth oriented cooperative policy to foster the participation young people in business.
“We are grateful that government created the Lesotho Cooperative College that paved the way for the development of many young people,” said Mr Thinyane.
“However, there is also need for a youth cooperative policy to ensure young people have the resources and capacity to thrive in business. We also need a cooperative bank to ensure financial support.”