Dorcas Makgato-Malesu

Wednesday, 05 October 2011

Cooperatives still have a role to play in the development of the national economy; this was said by the minister of Trade and Industry Dorcus Makgatho-Malesu while speaking at a press briefing on her ministry’s latest bench marking travels.

Makgatho-Malesu stated she and officials from her ministry took a fact finding mission to three African countries, Lesotho, Kenya and Tanzania to observe how their communities run their cooperatives and which strategies would be best adaptable to Botswana’s cooperatives, all so they will be able to amend the cooperatives and societies act of 1989. “Cooperatives are still relevant to the economy, the challenge is how do we re-align them in the value chain and have them run as a business,” she said, noting that in the eastern African nations the cooperatives contributes up to 40 percent to the GDP. Makgatho-Malesu is also of the view that there is a direct relation between cooperatives and government’s drive to eradicate poverty.

However, the minster noted that government cannot babysit cooperatives in their operations. “They have to diversify and adapt even reinvent themselves in order to compete.” She says members have a duty to patronise their organisations, citing Kenya and Tanzania as examples where some cooperatives have ventured into savings and credit market in order to diversify from the coffee business.

Speaking to Gazette Business on the subject matter, Phill Mogorosi, a former cooperative member in Gaborone conquered with the minister. He said that cooperatives have failed and will continue to fail for as long as they are treated like family trust funds and not business. Mogorosi believes that though their cooperative exists in terms of name, they are practically defunct. Also as part of ministry realignment, the ministry took a 13 member delegation mission – comprising BEDIA, BDC and two private companies – to Australia, from August 24th September 3rd, to advance Botswana’s interest in mining prospects exploration, technology, education and tourism prospects. Makgatho-Malesu said after the USA and Europe, Australia has a huge appetite for Botswana tourism.

The delegation, amongst other visits, attended the Down Under conference. Makgatho-Malesu said BEDIA signed a cooperation agreement with their Australian counterparts, Trade and Investment Queensland which will see them jointly promote trade and investment opportunity.