By Carol Machira
With the current issues of global climate change, pandemics, and unpredicted misfortunes, the question if the Sacco Sector will see the coming decades amid this harsh economic environment. However, Saccos have proven to be resilient, finding ways to survive more so during this pandemic period, when other businesses have been closing down.
Saccos are a source of stability for communities. A study done by the International Organization of Industrial, Artisanal and Service Producers’ Co-operatives (CICOPA), a branch of the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) that promotes worker Co-operatives, showed that at least 11million people worldwide are worker-members of co-operatives. Therefore, its impossible to overlook the significant role that Saccos play in the economy and how much workers benefit from their existence.
Many Saccos in the country have flourished from membership of even as low as twenty members and eventually grow to giant institutions with heavy loan books and a good asset base, amounting to billions of shillings. This is a clear proof that Societies in the country are dedicated to achieve their purpose to members and to the Society at large.
Hypothetically, in the next five to ten years, Saccos will grow faster because the Vision 2030 blueprint recognizes Co-operatives as a vital player. In line with the economic pillar, they are mandated to mobilize savings for Kenya’s investment needs. The Saccos will continue to mobilize savings, develop demand-driven financial products which encourage members to save additional resources. To achieve the goals stipulated in the social pillar, Saccos are mandated to mobilize billions of shillings, finance education from primary to university through affordable loans to the members, and provide credit facilities to meet all other member’s needs. In housing, they facilitate members to pool resources to buy plots and finance construction of homes.
With the popularity of social media platforms, information is now spreading faster thus people are becoming more and more informed about the Cooperative world. In this regard, more people will continue to join Saccos which will translate to the formation of new ones. It’s very easy now for members to join a Sacco through online members registration platforms and the existing members are easily mobilizing their friends on social media to join.
Technology is evolving day by day. Things done in the past are done better today. Some of these technological changes are amazing and effective in how businesses operate. For instance, there is the big data technology which helps companies to gather data from multiple sources, and the Coop Exchange technology, a mobile app that allows anyone in the world, to invest in co-operatives, from anywhere in the world
If Saccos fully embrace the principle of ‘business network,’ better results could be achieved. Business networking is an effective low-cost marketing method, for developing sales opportunities and contacts, based on referrals and introductions. Business network could be from all sorts of professional people outside the Sacco sector for example, scientists, lecturers, councilors, educators and so on. This will help the societies to build strong networks while surrounding themselves with people who are experts in all professions. Therefore, they will be more likely to move forward and guarantee continuity.
It’s important for Kenyan Co-operatives to embrace the principle of good Corporate Governance. Participative management with democratic leadership enhances the financial performance of Saccos. With good leadership, trained personnel, and facilities, along with an increase in business efficiency brought about by technology, they can survive moments of crisis. Saccos should continuously encourage members to increase their share capital and also to increase their borrowings for loans. They should enhance the borrowing appetite of members by coming up with investment opportunities that members can partake in through loans borrowed from the Sacco. They should also encourage members to borrow loans so as to charge more interest and hence retain higher surpluses to distribute back to members as dividends.