February 26, 2021
By Regina Pratt
The Ministry of Trade and Industry has yesterday commenced a two-day workshop for its Cooperative Department on their draft Cooperate Development Policy Document at the ministry’s conference hall, Youyi Building in Freetown.
The workshop is geared towards organizing viable and well-structured cooperatives that can contribute to economic growth and the theme for the draft policy was “Promoting Cooperative Societies for Sustainable Development.
In his keynote address, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr. Edward Sandy said the ministry has been waiting for this time, stating that as partners that was the first time he has worked with a larger membership of cooperatives across the country.
He noted that cooperatives form the backbone of the country’s economy and provide supports to the vulnerable and make them lively.
The minister further said that they cannot sit and talk about industry without setting the power house and setting up strong cooperatives that will help grow the economy.
Dr. Sandy said they were working with the Bank of Sierra Leone and the Ministry of Finance as the Cooperatives Department would be a strong instrument that when its activities are undertaken, the finances of cooperatives would improve and that as a government they should be able to look at the policy.
“When the activities are undertaken, the finances of cooperatives will improve and there would be resources to do business,” he said, adding that the farming cooperative will serve the policy and that they should be able to trade with the international market in the ECOWAS sub-region.
Director of Policy in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Mrs. Saffie Deen, said the policy has long been in the pipeline and that they must congratulate themselves for the day.
She said the transition of the cooperative should be defined in the policy as it is a national document that would last for a very long time.
A representative from the Bank of Sierra Leone, Mrs. Esther Johnson said the credit and savings institutions fall under their purview, and that they were working with the Cooperative Department to ensure that the sector is well developed.
She registered the Bank’s support to the validation of the document and requested that the consultant relates with them so that they can develop it to standard.
Madam Kadiatu Barrie from the International Trade Centre, said their key interest is to ensure that the document is gender sensitive as there were a lot of women cooperatives in Sierra Leone.
“As we prepare to get the policy document validated, it is left with the implementation for the people to know what is in it,” she said.
The Acting Registrar for Cooperative Department, Newton Martin, provided the background of the cooperatives and highlighted the types of Cooperative in the country including Agricultural Cooperatives, Industrial Cooperatives, Fisheries Cooperatives, Handicrafts Cooperatives Housing Cooperatives, Transport Cooperatives, Credit Unions (Savings and Credit Cooperatives ), Workers’ Cooperative, Non-profit Social Cooperative, Consumer Cooperative, Marketing and Supply Cooperative and Health Cooperatives.
He said by the end of 2015, there were about 580 cooperatives with 22,000 membership countrywide, adding that the war, lack of purpose, lack of members commitment and access to finance, capacity building, Ebola and now the Corona, led to the dormancy of those cooperatives.