The co-operative movement in the region can now draw its membership from any of the EAC partner states following the enactment of the EAC Co-operative Societies Bill 2014 by EALA.
The Bill was advanced by members of the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF) and is expected allow engagement of the co-operative movement in the region’s integration process.
This means that a co-operative society in Kenya for example can have members from co-operative societies from Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda or Tanzania that have the same primary goal.
However, savings and credit co-operative (Saccos) will have to wait for a while before they can open shop across borders.
It is understood that an arrangement similar to that where banks have correspondents outside their countries is being considered. This would mean that a Sacco in Rwanda can have a partner in other EAC countries, affording its members seamless access to services within the region.
The EAC Co-operative Societies Act, now awaiting assent into law by the EAC Heads of State Summit, is intended to enable largely agricultural and other trade co-operatives to expand and give them clout when bargaining for inputs and products.
“We have already formed a regional co-operative agency with representation from all the partner states. The chair of the agency will be from the EAC country chairing the community for that year and therefore the agency chair will be rotational among the partner states,” said Stephen Muchiri, chief executive officer of the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation, Kenya.
The Act will allow primary co-operatives from the different partner states to form a regional co-operative union and individuals from different countries to form one co-operative, among other benefits.
“Different regional co-operatives have varying degrees of competitive advantage in production, trade and advocacy, therefore merging them will make them stronger,” said Mr Muchiri.