I believe that Uganda still needs the cooperatives for the socio-economic perspectives. According to the CIA report 2012, about 50% of the total population of Uganda are connected to either land phone or cellular phone and 9.5% of the population is connected to internet using. Albeit the rapid growth of the media and impressive growth of the economy, Uganda suffers from some major problems like poverty (25%), inequality, malnutrition, illiteracy (34%) and high HIV prevalence rate (6.5%). Despite of not being a very big country, there are numerous ethnic groups and multi-lingual people live here. So I believe the importance of cooperative for Uganda is very high despite the emergence of the massive uses of electronic and communication media. It is always advisable to massively advertise the social goals of the government by this media but the necessity for consolidation of the mass population is always demanding. Individual person is motivated by the social norms and values and this social norm and values are monitored by some institutions. Electronic media is far away from monitoring this consolidation of the individuals towards the beliefs and customs.
From the economic perspective, the cooperatives those who are engaged in providing microfinance and agribusiness consultancies are very important to make a change in the life of the poor people. This wretched of the poor population are deprived of from getting the benefit of the country’s economic growth. Inequality rises but there is no one to change the life of the poor. The internet and the fm radio can convey the information but it cannot change the life of the poor people, especially the illiterate people. They need assistance, support to grow, finance to do business, training to improve, advice to look forward, then only a vibration can be created. So I think the SME and the cooperatives can play a vital role for this kind of social objectives.
About the prevalence of HIV, everyone knows that is a very dangerous disease, all the electronic and social media are posting for this awareness, but how much vibration can be created without a real physical movement, a procession, a rally, a HIV awareness week, blood donation program, national seminar etc. So some cooperatives should work for this. It is not good to ignore the smalls. Smalls are the beauty and they can do some wonderful jobs. Think about the Microfinance institute which is developed from Bangladesh, it was small but now the vibration is enormous. So being small is not a problem. The emerging growth of the telecommunication can never replace the necessity of the cooperatives. It will prevail in the long run. It would not be wise to stop them to operate.
I believe in market. If there is big change in the society and in the life style of the population, the cooperatives will change its operation by its own. They will develop the new products for the new population. So it is not wise to control the innovations. But I believe it is necessary to monitor this cooperatives and about their activities. What are they doing and how they are doing? Is it bad for the layman people, is it market distorting etc. So a regulatory body can observe the works of these cooperatives.
Mohammad Monirul Hasan
Institute of Microfinance (InM)