Written by Elizabeth Gezahegn, Cooperative advisor Ethiopia
In Ethiopia currently, there is a three-tire system: Primary cooperative → union → federation.
According to Ethiopian Cooperative Commission (ECC) official report (2021) there are more than 92,755 cooperatives in Ethiopia with 21,043,370 members (6,743,429 female and 14,299,941 male). There are 21,328 Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOS) with 5,384,559 members (3,122,454 female and 2,262,105 male). The savings and shares of these SACCOS are 18.54 billion ETB ($ 425,687,860).
In 2016, the Ethiopian Government revised the cooperative proclamation. The revised proclamation allows the formation of cooperative leagues or apex organisations in the country. As is stated in the proclamation, primary cooperative societies, cooperative society unions, and federations may establish a league that represents all cooperative societies in Ethiopia. Thus, many cooperative unions and primary cooperatives have been requesting the formation of a cooperative league, which will be the voice and representative for all cooperatives.
The ECC is a Government Commission established to enable rural and urban people to solve their socio-economic problems on their own and become self-reliant by being organised into different types of cooperatives depending on their interests and local resources.
From time to time, ECC shows an interest in establishing a cooperative league in Ethiopia.
ECC is the only cooperative regulatory authority that provides technical support to the league formation in Ethiopia. In 2022, ECC and Agriterra signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), with one of the objectives being Agriterra's support in establishing a league that represents all cooperatives in Ethiopia in lobbying and advocacy activities. Thus, in February 2023, a study tour to the Netherlands was organised for ECC higher officials, and they visited different Dutch cooperatives and farmer organisations including the Dutch cooperative council (NCR). They gained insights about the establishment process and role and functions of the league, governance and management structure, and financial sources among others.
Through the facilitation of Agriterra, a virtual workshop was organised on 12 July 2022 by involving government stakeholders such as ECC, Regional Cooperative Promotion Agency, and other farmer organisations. The aim of the workshop was to raise awareness and sensitize stakeholders on the benefit of apex formation, mandates, how to establish an apex organisation, and experience sharing from Uganda. Bertine Schieven presented the Dutch’ evolution of cooperatives, the market share of cooperatives, and the role of NCR. Uganda Cooperative Alliance (UCA), an umbrella organisation for all cooperatives in Uganda, is an exemplary apex organisation and was selected for the workshop participants. Mr. Asiimwe Ivan (General Secretary/ CEO of UCA) shared the UCA experience through a virtual platform. In total, about 18 participants were involved physically and virtually.
The workshop successfully achieved the intended objectives. Besides, the workshop created awareness about the league's resource mobilization system, financial sources, etc., shared UCA's experience in lobbying and advocacy, and finally discussed and developed an implementation trajectory and action plan for follow-up.
The ECC and Regional Cooperative Promotion Agency experts have got a shared vision and clarity on the league establishment process, league role, management structure, and resource mobilisation system by sharing the experience from UCA. At the end of the workshop, ECC agreed to prepare a work plan and detailed implementation plan showing a clear milestone for the establishment of the league. With the support of Agriterra, the Deputy ECC commissioner agreed to realise the apex formation by the coming six to ten months.