Speech Delivered at the Launch of the UN International Year Of Co-Operatives at the NEF Offices, Morningside, Sandton by Deputy Minister Elizabeth Thabethe

Programme Director,
DDG of EEDD, Mr Sipho Zikode,
Members of the media,
Officials from the dti in our midst,
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen

It is indeed an honour for me to formally launch the United Nations International Year of Cooperatives in South Africa. The theme for the year is “Cooperative Enterprises Build a Better World”. 2012 marks the year when the world’s attention is focused on cooperatives and the role that they play in the economic and social development of its members and the communities within which they operate.

Globally cooperatives are recognized as a vehicle through which all people can interact and engage in decisions that affect their social and economic well-being and eradicate poverty. The levels of poverty, inequality and unemployment in South Africa, necessitates support to a model that seeks to empower groups of people to participate in the economy, as opposed to individuals.

Working in association with other people who share the same social and economic needs and aspirations, offers cooperators an opportunity to develop the necessary economies of scale they need to maximize the potential of the business to become a sustainable enterprise; and it also makes available the necessary technical and administrative skills which an individual in his or her own capacity may otherwise be lacking.

In South Africa, the number of cooperatives registered over the last 10 years has seen a sharp increase. However, we recognize that this has not necessarily led to an improvement of the economic and social conditions the members anticipated when they started the cooperative. There are currently more than 54 000 registered cooperatives that proves that many South Africans are aware of the cooperative as a business form. However, our awareness and support efforts also need to be refocused on promoting cooperatives as sustainable businesses.

In order to achieve this, cooperatives, government, employers’ organizations and workers’ organizations all need to work together to ensure that we are promoting and supporting autonomous and sustainable businesses. The Government in South Africa has adopted a pro-active and coordinated approach to promote and support cooperative development in the country. We provide financial and non-financial assistance to cooperatives through various channels at national, provincial and local levels. We have created an enabling environment for cooperatives through the Cooperatives Development Policy, the Cooperatives Act and the Integrated Strategy on the Development and Promotion of Cooperatives, the Cooperatives Bank Act and the development of provincial Strategies to promote and support cooperatives.

In order to address the development challenges faced by cooperatives we have designed several support interventions. We will be increasing funds for the Cooperative Incentive Scheme to ensure that larger numbers of cooperatives are able to gain access to the necessary financial support to operate their businesses. We will be assisting in the promotion and support of Secondary Marketing Cooperatives to address the challenge cooperatives face in accessing markets. We are strengthening our partnerships with the cooperative movement and other development partners to ensure we increase the support interventions to cooperatives.

We are identifying innovative programmes and products to ensure that we are supporting sustainable cooperatives that can play a meaningful role in the economic and social development of its members. We will be establishing the Cooperative Development Agency that will ensure that financial and non-financial support is more readily available to cooperatives. We are establishing the Cooperatives Tribunal that will assist cooperatives in addressing and resolving the conflicts within their organizations and will provide judicious management support.

2012 offers us an opportunity to increase the awareness of the role that cooperatives play in the social and economic development of cooperative members; we can do this by show-casing the successors that we have achieved. During the course of the year we will be implementing various activities at national, provincial and local levels to celebrate the United Nations International Year of Cooperatives and I encourage all development partners to use these as an opportunity to show-case their success stories. In South Africa we have coordinated the establishment of a Coordination Committee to guide the advocacy and coordination of the United Nations International Year of Cooperatives in South Africa.

I encourage all constituents as identified in the UN Recommendation 193, government departments/their agencies, workers’ and employers’ organizations and the cooperative movement, to participate in the UN IYC to ensure that we Increase Awareness of the cooperative model, Promote the Growth of cooperatives and Establish Appropriate Policies or strategies conducive to cooperative formation and growth; and in this way address the key objectives of the United Nations International Year of Cooperatives. I furthermore encourage all these partners, to use this year as an opportunity to increase the awareness of the contribution that cooperatives have made and can make to improving the socio-economic conditions of its members and to Building a Better World.

I thank you!!!!

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