Policies need therefore to pay closer attention to the specific sectors or value-chains in which cooperatives operate. These considerations should be based on the main tenance of a clear distinction between workers’ cooperatives and cooperative providing services to members. This requires closer attention to the economic or business plan of cooperatives, whether or not this is a requirement for registration. It also requires that close attention be paid to markets, and how cooperatives access markets. The important role that secondary cooperatives can play in this regard is not sufficiently acknowledged. The potential of cooperatives to provide opportunities for women and marginalized groups has not been satisfactorily addressed in any policy. Although there is much anecdotal evidence suggesting that women in particular are often the mainstay of many cooperatives, it is not realistic to expect cooperatives representing women and marginalized groups to become sustainable without some support from the state. Recommendation No. 193 provides some guidance here. Procurement policies and public works programmes can be utilized to promote such cooperatives. 134 Tanzanian policy, page 5. Cooperative policy and law in east and southern Africa : A review 29
In regard to the question of what forms of support the state can provide or are indeed appropriate, there are no easy answers in countries where there are limited resources within the cooperative movement for providing services such as education and training, entrepreneurial advice and the like. At the same time cooperatives are often either disregarded within existing developmental programmes, or in a situation where their potential is not sufficiently realized. The global economic crisis that started at the end of 2008 has coincided with mounting evidence, and public concern, regarding the impact climate change may have on sub-Saharan Africa, and its food security. This represents an opportune moment to reaffirm the potential of cooperatives, and to review the adequacy of existing government support measures. Despite the shortcomings of cooperatives, there can be no doubt that countries with formal policies are better off than without them, both in that policy represents an opportunity to engage, and in that no matter how deficient the policy, it provides a foundation on which it will be possible to build an improved policy. There is thus a need to review policies on an ongoing basis, in the light of experience. It is obviously not as easy to review legislation, but this investigation shows a marked qualitative difference between the older and newer laws, in respect of compliance with cooperative principles and respect for cooperative autonomy. It is also apparent that provisions in the older laws are out of keeping with the “new consensus” on cooperatives in other respects. By failing to make appropriate provisions for SACCOs and other forms of cooperatives, the older laws represent an obstacle to cooperative development.