President Ian Khama says the training and skills development of co-operatives' members is key to entrepreneurial growth, hence the Botswana Co-operatives Training Centre, which is meant to provide the much needed training to enhance business acumen of trainees.
Officially opening the Centre on Friday, Khama said the training centre is a landmark achievement that shows the commitment and seriousness government attaches to development of co-cooperatives for sustainable growth.
Khama explained that the transformation of the co-operative movement in regard to education and training is central to the attainment of sustainable development by any country as it empowers citizens through the creation, application and spreading of skills and knowledge.
With statistics from the United Nations (UN) indicating high number of co-operatives worldwide employing over 100 million people and estimated to employ 14 million more people than multi-national corporations, it is believed that co-operatives will contribute significantly to the economic development of a number of countries with the world's largest co-operative enterprise having a collective revenue of 1.6 trillion US Dollars.
Moreover in Botswana alone a total of 180 co-operative societies with membership totalling 91,250 and employing 800 people are registered, a move that Khama said would address the issue of employment for many. "Many of these co-operative businesses are now expanding and diversifying their operations from the traditional trading in consumer goods and services, and livestock marketing to savings and loans as well as property development," the President said.
However, with Khama not satisfied that some of the co-operatives are not operating at their full potential due to a variety of challenges, he said it was for this reason that in 2012, a co-operative transformation strategy was developed.
He explained that the objective of the strategy was to transform co-operative societies into viable, profitable and sustainable business entities with focus on the training and skills development and pointed out that co-operatives, as citizen-owned enterprises, should also take advantage of government initiatives.
One such initiative being the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD), which encourages government institutions, including parastatals, to purchase their goods and services from locally based manufacturers and service providers such as co-operatives.
For her part, Trade and Industry Minister Dorcas Makgato-Malesu said that co-operatives are member-owned and member-driven enterprises, which operate on principles of self-empowerment and collective responsibility with the sector doing exceptionally well until the late 90s.
Makgato-Malesu explained that the decline in performance was due to many challenges, including the change in business environment, mismanagement, under capitalisation and attraction and retention of skilled employees and the co-operative being unable to exploit new opportunities that came with the development of the economy.
However, the minister said with the government adopting the National Policy for Co-operatives Development in 2007, a roadmap was set to facilitate sustainable development, growth and diversification of the co-operative sub sector into a globally competitive business environment.
She explained that the new environment would redirect and drive the process for the revolution of co-operatives by enhancing the management capacity of co-operatives' members and the community through collaborations and partnerships with various institutions and training and skills development.