FOLLOWING the speech delivered by President Edgar Lungu during the opening of Parliament, I feel compelled to give my declarative knowledge on the cooperative movement in Zambia.
First and foremost, let me congratulate the President for his excellent decision for recognising the cooperatives as the tools for national development. A cooperative is defined as â€œan autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterpriseâ€.
Already the definition elucidates that a cooperative is formed because people want to achieve something.
â€œCooperatives are based on the values of self-responsibility, democracy, equity and solidarityâ€. This shows teamwork as the cooperative members embark on discharging their functions for success in a cooperative. Equally, economic development of a country requires these characteristics of the cooperative which will trickle down to the country as members of the cooperatives execute them.
Cooperatives operate on principles, and among them is member economic participation; which indicates that every member of the cooperative has a duty to participate in the affairs of the economy.
The cooperative movement has potential to contribute to Zambiaâ€™s gross domestic product (GDP). In order for the country to realise this potential, the cooperatives should move from business-as-usual type of managementÂ which has contributed to their failure and be transformed into viable business enterprises.
This requires the diversification of the cooperativesÂ from theirÂ major perceived activity of agriculture into tourism, mining, transportation, housing andÂ manufacturing industries.
This justifies the reason for the realignment of the cooperative department from the Ministry of Agriculture to the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry. The cooperatives are run as business entities and not confined to agricultural activities only.
Another principle of a cooperative is concern for the community. Economic development comes with community participation.
Since the cooperative movement advocates for this, it is clear that the passion that the cooperatives have for the communities enhances community engagement, which ultimately enables them to come up with sound business plans.
It is only through the engagement of the people from the grass roots that will bring economic development in the country. In rural areas most cooperatives are in the villages. It is important to appreciate that in villages there is indigenous knowledge that needs to be utilised.
Similarly, urban areas have a good numberÂ cooperatives which usesÂ scientific knowledge. Therefore, the combination of both indigenousÂ and scientific knowledge whichÂ theseÂ cooperatives posses will translate intoÂ economic development.
As the country is passing through the economic crunch there is need to bring out such excellent ideas that will hasten the transformation of the country. The realignment of the cooperative department will resuscitate the cooperatives into viable business entities because they will carry out their original mandate.
This indeed will bring a new dawn for the economic emancipation of the country.
The author is a student at Mulungushi University.