Kenya: Online portal targets cooperatives
The government has started a campaign to increase the use of technology by cooperative societies.
In a circular to county cooperative commissioners, the national deputy Cooperatives Commissioner Philip Gichuki said last week that though the cooperative movement has made big strides in promoting the country’s economic growth over the last decade, this has not been matched by a similar adaptation of information technology.
Cooperative societies are now required to fully incorporate information and communications technology in their operations in line with the goals of Vision 2030.
“Adopting information and communication technology will assist the firms to market themselves by enhancing their visibility in the market place. The services will also facilitate faster access of cooperatives data among cooperatives and other users,” Gichuki said.
Over the years, the cooperative movement has established itself as an important player in socio-economic development despite facing serious management challenges.
The move comes at a time when saccos are faced with stiff competition from banks and players in the micro-finance sector, which market their services more aggressively.
Anthony Kabugi, the founder of a local technology firm that has developed a new web solution aimed at helping cooperative societies market their products online, said adopting technology will unlock the sector’s potential by helping saccos to reach new markets locally and abroad.
Africoop, a web portal that gives cooperatives a dedicated web page to create their business profiles developed by Global Links Consult, is intended to help increase the saccos’ visibility as they compete for business with rival institutions.
“We developed this portal after realising the slow uptake of technology among local co-operatives most of which do not even have a website. You have to appreciate the importance of online presence in today’s business world,” said Mr Kabugi.
Since its launch last month, the portal — www.africacooperatives.coop — has so far registered over 20 cooperatives, most of which operate in Nairobi and other towns.
In total, Kenya is home to more than 14,000 registered cooperatives; about 8,000 are active.
To enlist Africoop’s services, cooperatives are required to register and pay an annual fee of Sh15,000. They then receive a dedicated webpage allowing them to upload addresses, product information and a business profile. A link to the website is also provided for on the Africoop web page which does not host third party adverts.
“We believe the product will change the business of local cooperatives. Our target is to have at least 500 of them on the portal by the end of the year. The plan is to eventually roll out in the region, creating a one-stop site in which one can find information about all the cooperatives in the region,” Kabugi said.
The emergence of new innovation in the financial sector such as Safaricom’s M-Shwari. which offers savings and credit services similar to those offered by saccos has put the sector under pressure.
Consequently, they are changing their entire outlook to attract new members.
According to the Kenya Union of Savings and Credit Co-operatives, the umbrella body, about 30 saccos had rebranded by March with a view to expand their business and appeal to a wider population across all sectors.