Report of the Vice-President for Africa

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



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       Report of the Vice-President for Africa
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by Hon. B. Wolimbwa*

Overview

Africa's gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 2.4 percent in 1994 compared
to only 0.9 percent in 1993 and tell to 0.3 percent in 1992. Despite this
modest increase in growth in 1994, which was the fastest annual rate during
the period 1990 - 1994, the African economy has continued to fall behind
other developing regions, and GDP growth is yet to keep pace with
population growth.

On a better note, agriculture performed better in most parts of the region,
resulting in above average harvest, mainly because of the improvement in
the weather conditions. The North Africa subregion achieved an impressive
growth rate of 12.8 percent, followed by Southern and West Africa
subregions, where output is reported to have grown by 3.6 percent and 2.7
percent respectively. In contrast, the East and Central Africa subregions
registered negative growth rates of 1 percent and 1.5 percent respectively.
Total output of cereals increased.

Co-operative Adjustment in a Changing Environment

The history of the Co-operative Movement in the region goes as far back as
the beginning of the 20th Century. Ninety years later the number has
increased from a handful to thousands.

In this period co-operatives have contributed in a major way to the
alleviation of poverty. The access to credit enables rural dwellers to
afford improved agricultural inputs and implements thereby increasing their
production. Similarly co-operatives have played a significant role in the
creation and expansion of employment. In other words, co-operatives in
Africa, like everywhere else, have contributed to national and regional
development.

Within the last five years many African countries adopted the World Bank
and IMF structural adjustment programmes as one way of securing funding
from the international donor community. Through the structural adjustment
policies, co-operatives have been exposed to competition when they were
least prepared. In the short term the impact of these policies has been
severe.

I would like to add, however, that co-operatives in Africa existed and will
have an important role to play under liberalised economic policies. It
should be noted that, in fact, the first indigenous co-operatives in Africa
were born as a response to the genuine needs of their members.
Considering the importance of the fast changing environment in which
co-operatives are going to operate, ICA commissioned a study on
'Co-operative Adjustment in a Changing Environment in Sub-Saharan Africa'
to analyze the situation and recommend a new strategy for co-operative
development in Africa. The report was presented at the First Meeting of the
ICA Regional Assembly for Africa. The report was also presented to ICA
Europe as a document that raises issues that support assistance from the
North because there is now an environment for developing autonomous
co-operatives.

Restructuring of the ICA

Following the restructuring of the ICA, Mr Momodou Dibba, former Chairman
for West Africa, was nominated and later elected as Vice-President for
Africa at the 1993 General Assembly. The Regional Assembly for Africa held
its First Meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, on 9th September, 1994. The meeting
was opened by the Vice-President of Kenya, Hon. George Saitoti, and later
addressed by the Tanzania Minister of Agriculture, Hon. J. Makwetta, in his
capacity as Chairman of the Africa Co-operative Ministers' Conference.

The meeting was initially chaired by the ICA President, Mr Lars Marcus, and
later by the Africa alternate Vice-President following the approval of the
Regional Assembly Rules and Guide Lines. In his address to the Assembly the
ICA President challenged co-operatives in Africa to do more for the member
in the new environment. He also used the occasion to bid farewell to the
movement in the region and assured the co-operators that he will continue
to be part of Africa.

The meeting was also addressed by the following:  ICA Director General,
Bruce Thordarson;  CICOPA Chairman, Yves Regis;  ICMIF CEO, Hans Dahlberg;
AFRA Chairman,  E. Kwenda;  ICBA/Regional Chairman, E. Mureithi.

The Regional Assembly considered and approved the resolutions of the
seminar considering Africa's input to the review of co-operative
principles. The report on the role of co-operatives in the new environment
would be used by each national movement as a background document.

Regional Offices
The Africa Region still operates from two Offices: Abidjan for West Africa
and Moshi for East, Central and Southern Africa. Although Egypt
participated in the First Regional Assembly Meeting we look forward to the
full participation of North Africa in the near future.

* Hon. Wolimbwa, the ICA Vice-President for Africa, is Chairman of the
Uganda Co-operative Alliance in Kampala, Uganda.