Working Paper No. 1 - Reinventing the wheel? : African cooperatives in a liberalized economic environment

CoopAFRICA Working Paper No. 1

*This article was published in the Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics, Volume 80 Issue 3 (September 2009).

Using data from eleven African countries, examines the impact of liberalization measures on the status, structural organization and performance of cooperatives in Africa.

Cooperative development in Africa can be said to have traversed two main eras: the era of state control and that of liberalization. The first era lasted up to the early 1990s and saw the origin and substantial growth of cooperatives on the continent. During that period, different models of cooperative development were introduced on the continent. We distinguish a unified cooperative model, a social economy model, a social movement model, a producers' model and an indigenous model. But in all cases, cooperatives were engulfed into state politics. However, little is known about the impact of liberalization measures on these models. Our research in 11 African countries reveals that cooperatives in Africa have survived the market forces and continued to grow in number and membership. We see a slow but sure erosion of the unified model and the adoption of a social economy model. Cooperatives in Africa are re-examining their organizational forms and diversifying their activities in response to members' interests and needs.