By Babajide Komolafe
One of the most powerful channels of investment is cooperative societies. Many people have heard about them, but only few understand them and the immense opportunities they offer. As a result, only a fraction of the society are tapping into and enjoying these opportunities. Even the government is yet to realise how powerful cooperative societies can be, especially in eradicating poverty and improving welfare of the citizens. Fully exploited, cooperatives can enhance job creation and national productivity.
For the individual, especially low income earners, it is perhaps the least stressful and risky ways to save, invest, and improve personal welfare. Going forward, we would devote time and space to exploring the investment opportunities of a cooperative society for the individual and its development benefit for the nation. Also, as we go along, we would compare cooperatives to other forms of investment, so as to highlight its advantages and disadvantages.
A cooperative society is an association of people that come together to pool resources together to engage in business or economic activities for the purpose of improving their welfare. According to the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA), a cooperative society is “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.”
The thinking behind cooperative societies is best reflected in an excerpt from the history of cooperative societies below.
“As the mechanisation of the Industrial Revolution was forcing more and more skilled workers into poverty, these tradesmen decided to band together to open their own store, selling food items they could not otherwise afford. With lessons from prior failed attempts at co-operation in mind, they designed the now famous Rochdale Principles, and over a period of four months, they struggled to pool one pound sterling per person for a total of 28 pounds of capital. On December 21, 1844, they opened their store with a very meager selection of butter, sugar, flour, oatmeal and a few candles. Within three months, they expanded their selection to include tea and tobacco, and they were soon known for providing high quality, unadulterated goods.” (The History of Cooperative Movement, Wikipedia)
The above is a useful and powerful beginning to understanding cooperatives. The underlying philosophy is –poverty eradication, welfare protection and improvement.
Though, the cooperative society movement is more than 200 years old, this has not changed. Then, it was butter, sugar and tea. Today, it is television, phones, cars and houses. There are many people across the world today that would not have had television, mobile phone, houses and money to retire on if not for their membership and participation in one cooperative society or the other.
In fact, many lives would have been lost to curable diseases; many children would not have gone to school, and many would have had no job but for the easy access to credit and other financial benefits offered by cooperatives. Most importantly, many would not have saved at all during their working careers, or discover the power of savings culture but for membership of cooperative society. Personally, I have benefited from cooperative societies, and I know some of you have. But the truth is majority are yet to, because they don’t know the benefits.