Participants’ reflections on the 9th ILO-JCCU African Cooperative Leaders’ Study Tour

Since 2010, the ILO, through the Cooperatives Unit (COOP) and its Office for Tokyo, and the Japanese Consumers’ Co-operative Union (JCCU) have co-organized African Cooperative Leaders' Study Tours in Japan to encourage the exchange of knowledge and experiences and explore possible cooperation between African and Japanese cooperatives.

News | 21 February 2019
The 9th edition of the ILO-JCCU African Cooperative Leaders' Study Tour in Japan took place in Tokyo and its vicinity from 15 to 24 October 2018 with the participation of leaders from Francophone African countries. This was the first edition of the study tour that focused strictly on Francophone countries as the previous study tours’ participants were largely from Anglophone countries. ILO COOP spoke to three participants to find out about their experiences around the study tour and ask about their future plans to transfer the knowledge for advancing African cooperative development.

Mr Chouihi making a presentation at a public seminar during the study tour
Mr Radhouan Chouihi is the President of Mutual Society of Agricultural Services (SMSA) el Rommena, a cooperative of grenade producers in the region of Testour, Tunisia. Mr Chouihi has worked in the agriculture sector in Tunisia for many years to improve its productivity and profitability. He established SMSA el Rommena with around 50 farmers in 2018 after his experience with the Central Cooperative of Seeds and Selected Plants (CCSPS).

At an agricultural cooperative JA Hadano
Mr Chouihi observed that the spirit of cooperation is well established in Japan. He noted that cooperative principle six on ‘cooperation among cooperatives’ is embodied in the Japanese cooperative movement. He also found the diversity of Japanese cooperative businesses, covering agriculture, finance, insurance, retail and wholesale, and medical and care services, inspirational for Tunisian cooperatives which are currently focused on the agriculture sector. He was also interested in how Japanese cooperatives incorporate the social and environmental aspects in their strategies and activities. Based on his participation in the study tour, he has been inspired to strengthen cooperation with other cooperatives in Tunisia. He is considering partnering with a consumers’ cooperative established in 2015 in Tunisia after a founding member visited Japan as part of a study tour organized by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in 2009 and got inspired by the Japanese consumers’ cooperative experiences.

Mr Koffi making a presentation at the public seminar
Mr Kobenan Maurice Koffi has also been working in the agricultural sector and is currently a Technical Assistant to the Director General at the Federation of Cooperative Societies of the Producers of the Cotton Sector in Ivory Coast (FPC-CI). It was while visiting producer cooperatives (e.g. rice, maize, and cocoa) in his student days that Mr Koffi realized the potential of cooperatives in facilitating self-help, mutuality and community development through pooling of resources and cooperation. After conducting numerous studies and supporting the development of action plans for producers’ cooperatives, he joined FPC-CI in 2016 with the belief that if well organized, through their secondary and tertiary level organizations, cooperatives can be a viable economic force contributing to creating substantive wealth and jobs.

At a recycling facility of a consumers' cooperative Co-op Deli
The engagements with Japanese cooperatives in different sectors helped him reconfirm his understanding of role of cooperatives in creating wealth and job opportunities. At the same time, he gained insights into the social and environmental roles that cooperatives play, particularly through a visit to a waste recycling centre of a consumers’ cooperative that employs persons with disabilities. He indicated that he intends to organize events with other co-operators to share his observations and insights from the study tour. In addition, he hopes to develop a roadmap to consolidate the cooperative movement and diversify cooperative businesses in Ivory Coast, with a view to creating jobs, improving incomes of cooperative members, and providing essential services to the community.

Mr Yebga Bingan making a presentation at the pubic semianr
Mr Joseph Alain Yebga Bingan works on the development of cooperatives and the social and solidarity economy (SSE) in Cameroon as the President of the Local Network of Social and Solidarity Economy (RELESS) of Matomb. He is also an Expert on SSE at France-Africa Partnership for Co-development (PFAC). Mr Yebga Bingan first formed a common initiative groups (CIG) of corn and pepper producers based on the law No. 92/006, which was restructured into an agriculture cooperative after the ratification of the OHADA Uniform Act on the Law of Cooperative Societies by Cameroon in 2010. In order to promote the new legal framework of cooperatives, aligned with their values and principles, he partnered with NGO PFAC which had signed an agreement with the government for a systematic structuration of the SSE during the International Year of Cooperatives 2012. The NGO supports building capacities of local communities by creating a RELESS in each of the 374 municipalities of the country.

At Kagawa Archives and Resource Centre
Mr Yebga Bingan appreciated the diversity of Japanese cooperative businesses he observed during the study tour, including consumer-owned retail cooperatives supporting the marketing of local products and labour banks established by and for workers who are members of trade unions and consumers’ cooperatives for the purpose of mutual assistance and self-financing. He noted that he was particularly inspired by the common values underlying the cooperative model as presented at the Kagawa Archives and Resource Centre that exhibits the life and works of Toyohiko Kagawa, the father of the Japanese cooperative movement. He appreciated the opportunity to share experiences of African cooperatives and exchange knowledge with Japanese co-operators and the Ambassadors of Cameroon, Tunisia and Côte d'Ivoire at the public seminar organized by ILO Tokyo and Japan Co-operative Alliance (JCA) at the end of the study tour. He plans to organize a workshop to share his observations from the study tour with national cooperative and SSE partners (e.g. Ministries, state agencies, diplomatic representatives and international organizations investing in local development) in Yaoundé. He would also like to launch study tours to enhance knowledge exchange and collaboration between cooperatives and other SSE enterprises in 374 municipalities of Cameroon and in Central Africa.

The ILO, through its COOP Unit and its Office for Tokyo, will continue to collaborate with the JCCU and JCA to consolidate the network of the study tour participants, and to put ‘cooperation among cooperatives’ into action including through possible cooperation between African and Japanese cooperatives to promote decent work in global supply chains. The 10th edition of the ILO-JCCU study tour will be organized in September 2019.