Co-operatives engaged in primary production will be the biggest beneficiaries when the ongoing East African Community (EAC) Co-operative Societies Bill 2014 is enacted into law.
Mr Mike Sebalu, a member representing Uganda in the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), said the law being pursued will enable regional cooperatives engaged in primary production to create synergies for improved production technology and marketing.
“The EAC market has a population of more than 150 million people. Of that, 100 million are believed to be operating in primary production; that is why a regional law that seeks to streamline their businesses is important,” Mr Sebalu, the prime mover of the Bill, told journalists recently.
Primary producers are the people and organisations that work with the supportive natural resources to grow, harvest or extract primary products.
Most products from the primary industry sector are considered raw materials for other industries; major industries in this sector include agriculture, fishing, aquaculture, forestry mining and quarrying among others.
Mr Sebalu said the Bill in question is among those that have never met any resistance in EALA, and will hopefully be signed into law after the second and third readings in the House are done.
The Bill proposes to permit co-operatives to draw their membership from any of the EAC partner states. This means that a coffee co-operative union in Uganda can have members that are coffee primary co-operative societies from Burundi, Kenya. Rwanda or Tanzania. Similarly, a Savings And Credit Co-operative in Uganda can get members from any of the other EAC countries.
Areas of focus and purpose of the Bill
In a business sense, the Bill considers boosting members of cooperatives especially farmers efforts to get a clear understanding of the EAC Common Market protocols which will, at the end, ease regional trade for the benefit of members.
Mr Joseph Nkandu, the consultant commissioned by Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF) in 2009 to review the existing cooperative laws in Africa, said the Bill was premised on wide consultations and, the provisions will improve the respective national legislations in the EAC member states.
Mr Nkandu, also the executive director National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises (Nucafe) said the Bill is a cooperative demand-driven initiative, unlike most of the Bills initiated by government executive arms.