Message of the Chairman of the Regional Council, INFO-COOP, July, 1996

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    This document has been made available in electronic format
         by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA 
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                         October, 1996

        (Source: INFO-COOP, Issue No.9, July, 1996)

       Message of the Chairman of the Regional Council
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After the difficult period of consolidation that followed the
political adjustments and reforms or state disengagement
experienced by our different movements, we must now meet the
considerable requirements for change imposed by our political,
economic and social environment.

We are faced with the challenge of transforming our
organisations into real enterprises with the ability to manage
themselves profitably and effectively to meet our needs. We
must, in the next five years, act on our human and financial
resources and our economic activities.

This transformation must take place within the triple-faceted
framework of information, communication and training of our
members at the grassroots.  "How can the rural population's
capacity to define their development strategy be enhanced
without influencing their reflections through
information? " Bernard NJONGA of Cameroon straightaway places
information among the essential resources of rural
development. (1)

This cannot be stated any other way for those who have
mandated us at the primary level (in all co-operative
sectors).

We need to act on our human resources in order to enhance our
members' capacities and strengthen the relations of the latter
with their co-operatives. The mobilisation of members around
objectives of identifying, prioritising and meeting their
needs must be done through access to information, the mastery
and utilisation of communication strategies, and lastly
through training. The fundamental issue at stake is to progress
to a relationship of converging interests between us the
members and our co-operatives. This relationship of converging
interests must be reflected in our mobilisation, and therefore
our commitment to and active participation in our co-operative
which must serve as a tool for our self-promotion and for
meeting our needs.

A significant portion of our members - the youth and women -
deserves that a real policy for encouraging their
participation be implemented. The development and the future
of our movements cannot be ensured without their active
participation.

Co-operative societies cannot be promoted without our leaders
and employees gaining access to information, communication and
training. The development of their skills and capacity to
establish priorities and to formalise their actions through
management practices that they  plan and execute, will
contribute to improving the selection and combination of
measures directed at facilitating the mobilisation of our
internal and external financial resources. The mobilisation of
our human resources constitutes just the first step of a good
co-operative adjustment policy that our movement must take or
be made to take.

The disengagement of the state from supply, production,
marketing, training, and other activities requires that we
find ways and means of making it easy to meet the funding
needs of our individual members and co-operatives.

In addition to the dynamics of mobilising the individual
financial resources of each member, the future of our
movements can be built around the emergence of alternative
internal financing networks (savings and credit co-operatives,
self-help organisations, insurance, etc..). The development of
this internal financing strategy calls for a lot of
co-operative solidarity on the part of the aforementioned
networks and all co-operative sectors. This will then become
an area of local and national inter-co-operation. It is
becoming increasingly difficult and even expensive for our
co-operatives to obtain funding through traditional banking
channels. An international and financial co-operative
solidarity should emerge to support co-operative adjustment
programmes in our sub-region. The funding and launching of the
Regional Co-operative Development Fund (FRDC) would be the
first link in this chain of solidarity.

The seminar on co-operative adjustment held in Nairobi (Kenya)
during the last ICA General Assembly for Africa recommended:
a Movement-to-Movement assistance without State intervention;
the establishment of a Guarantee Fund and a set of measures
that would constitute the components of a co-operative
adjustment plan to be executed.

The implementation of such an internal financing strategy is
not easy to carry out. This presupposes that it would be
accompanied with extensive and sustained information, suitable
training programmes and a sound communication policy of which
members at the primary level are the actors and beneficiaries.
Good information, training and communication between members
are more than necessary for an optimum and effective
involvement of the latter in the management of their
co-operatives.

Our Unions need to have common audit and control services in
order to effectively support and advise the primary
co-operatives.

The privatisation and liberalisation policies of our economies
give our co-operatives the opportunity or force them to change
their status of economic agents. They can no longer afford to
serve as mere intermediaries for third persons to appropriate
the goods and services produced by their own members. In order
to serve the interests of their members more effectively and
ensure their own survival, our co-operatives and unions must
develop financing and marketing strategies for the goods and
services produced by the latter. Agricultural co-operatives in
the sub-region must take advantage of the customs and trade
agreements concluded between our various States in order to
practise a solid economic exchange policy.

It is urgent to establish within ROWA an information centre on 
supply and prices of agricultural products. The unions
affiliated to ROWA would become both suppliers and users of
the information gathered. In the next five years, as a
reflection of what we would have been able to achieve within
our primary co-operatives and Unions, we should plan to bear
the cost of running our Regional Office.

Right from today, we must get down to work so that tomorrow,
in five years time, we can positively assess our individual
and collective efforts and commitments.

Dear Fellow Co-operators, as we are about to hold our Regional
Council meeting and General Assembly, we wish to welcome you
to Dakar.

DIENG Ousseynou, Chairman of Regional Council

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(1) See CTA Spore No.62 - April 1996, p.1