Lesotho eyes key co-operatives seats

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MASERU — Lesotho says it is pushing to have two seats on the board of the International Co-operatives Alliance (ICA) to improve business opportunities for local co-operatives.

Southern African countries currently do not have any representation in the ICA board. On the other hand, east African countries have at least five seats.

The commissioner of co-operatives, ‘Maphamoli Lekoetje, told the Lesotho Times in an interview this week that the current situation needed to be changed.

Lekoetje said having representation at board level would help develop local co-operatives.

“Whenever there are projects or funding we do not have such information on time.

“As a result our qualifying cooperatives are not able to bid for such projects on time,” Lekoetje said.

She said if Lesotho managed to secure the seats this would help build capacity of local co-operatives by sharing information and the best policies that will improve the sustainability of the co-operatives.

“We are targeting to have two seats from the youth co-operatives and the co-operatives operated by the older individuals,” Lekoetje said.

“Many countries in east Africa have strong co-operatives because they have access to more information which helps improve business opportunities for local cooperatives.”

Lekoetje said co-operatives that are run by the youth were more dynamic as they are able to change according to the requirements of the market.

She said such co-operatives were able to adjust to market needs because the youths are looking for ways to raise a regular income and create employment.

“Co-operatives have a role in combating the high level of unemployment in the country especially for the youth.

“The youth have created employment for other youngsters and for themselves,” said Lekoetje.

A recent survey by the department of co-operatives and the ICA regional office revealed there were about 250 active co-operatives in Lesotho.

The survey also showed that the majority of the registered co-operatives were however dormant.

The survey also showed that 60 percent of co-operatives members were women. The majority of the co-operatives operated as savings and credit clubs.

The savings and credit clubs were important institutions for the majority of Basotho who survive on less than one United States dollar a day, according to aid agencies.

Other co-operative sectors include the handicrafts, agriculture and service providers. Others are into tourism and high value agro-businesses such as fish farming.

Most of the co-operatives have however struggled to remain afloat and have collapsed due to poor governance and mismanagement.

Lekoetje said the ministry was aware of the challenges facing the co-operative movement and was working to address these problems.

“This is a big challenge we are trying to address through strengthening our focus on co-operative development and offering more training to members in our co-operatives,” she said.

Lekoetje said her department is going to reinforce its efforts to ensure that co-operatives are sustainable.

“We are also looking at the options for the co-operatives so that they can diversify and ensure sustainability,” she said.

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