Growth orientation, emphasis on the use of planning and openness in transactions and communications were perceived as strengths in well-managed co-operatives and members seemed more satisfied with their society in these areas than in fairly well-managed ones. Perceptions of strength in private companies were more authoritarian and control-oriented and emphasised strong management, production and owner-control. One major difference between co-operatives and private estates was with respect to the maintenance of high quality production standards (the latter maintained higher standards). Also private company owners thought they were better able to control operations than were co-operative members. Good and demanding owners were considered as strengths in private companies whereas in societies, member loyalty was valued more.
Member-perceived weaknesses in the co-operative societies surveyed related largely to internal relationships, such as managerial corruption, the poor payment system, slow information flow and lack of transparency in transactions and communication. Among the fairly well-managed societies, poor payment system and lack of transparency in managerial activities were highlighted as major weaknesses. In contrast, the perceived weaknesses in private companies were mainly reflections of external relationships like politics, markets and lack of financing.
Perceptions regarding what were threats and opportunities also differed. Fairly well-managed co-operatives generally saw liberalisation of the Kenyan economy mainly as a threat, while market liberalisation was perceived mainly as an opportunity in private companies. The perceptions of the well-managed co-operatives surveyed were mixed. For example, members of well-managed societies wanted their society or the Ministry to keep private buyers away from their farms. At the same time, however, they welcomed the possibilities of free choice over their own marketing chain. This demonstrates that well-managed co-operatives are seeking new possibilities whereas the fairly well-managed co-operatives seem more concerned with their day-to-day problems. For private companies, liberalisation meant opportunities to create own brand names, to expand operations abroad and to further process their raw material. The main threat perceived by the private companies was the end of liberalisation.
To conclude, the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis shows striking differences between private companies and co-operatives. Private company perceptions are much more optimistic with regard to liberalisation than co-operatives and appear to be gaining a competitive advantage in liberalised markets. As liberalisation continues and competition becomes more intense, it is, therefore, likely that co-operatives will face an even stronger challenge from the private companies.