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Spotlight on co-operatives

Letuka Chafotsa

Maseru — The department of cooperatives in the ministry of Trade and industry, cooperatives and marketing celebrated the international credit union day at a local hotel.

Speaking to the Sunday Express about the significance of celebrating the day this week commissioner of cooperatives ‘Maphamoli Lekoetje said cooperatives play a significant role on economic development and have  the potential to foster economic growth at the community and regional level.

“Cooperatives serve groups that share something in common, such as where they work, live, or go to church.” Lekoetje said.

Explaining the specifics of how a credit union operates, Lekoetje said, “A credit union is a cooperative financial institution, owned and controlled by the people who use its services.”

Lekoetje said credit union or savings and credit cooperatives have principles that direct them, and such are voluntary member ship, democratic member control, members’ economic participation, autonomy and independence, concern for community, education, training and information, and cooperation among cooperatives.

“It is in this light those credit unions are voluntary  cooperatives, offering services to people willing to accept the responsibilities and benefits of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination”, she added further.

Autonomy and independence

“Credit unions are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organisations or raise capital from external sources, it is done based on terms that ensure democratic control by the member and maintains the credit union autonomy,” she said.

Concern for community

“While focusing on member needs, credit unions work for the sustainable development of communities, including people of modest means, through policies developed and accepted by the members,” Lekoetje said.

Cooperation among credit unions

“They serve their members most effectively and strengthen the credit union movement by working together through local, state, regional, national, and international structures,” she said.

Lekoetje maintained that credit unions are more likely to be interested in promoting community growth than creating an investor-owned firm controlled by non-local investors.

However, Lekoetje said there are still some challenges that cooperatives in Lesotho are faced with as there are no insurance companies for cooperatives in the country. She further said they would be working with cooperatives’ insurance of Kenya to help in capacitating members on insurance and would also partner with German insurer Deutsher Genossenchatts and Raiffeisenverbrand to help in capacity building and empowering our cooperators in business administration.

“The social and economic benefits of cooperatives and credit unions can have far reaching impact, but they need support from the development communities to reach their potential” she concluded.

Khalema of boliba savings and credit cooperatives said that credit unions are growing though there was less interest on them initially.

“With local ownership and control, and net profits distributed to those who use the cooperative, cooperatives are considered by some to be an ideal model for local development”, Khalema said.

In accordance to Khalema the international credit union day was inspiring to all credit unions as such are models for local business are both responsive to community needs as well as stimulate local growth.

“Savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOOs) are more likely to be interested in promoting community growth than an investor-owned firm by non local investors”, said Khalema.

“Members focus on providing services rather than on overall maximising profit for the business”, added Khalema.

“We believe that the international day for SACCOOs was really motivational to us”, he concluded.

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