The International Co-operative Alliance has opened its Global Conference and General Assembly in Cape Town.
In opening the event, the Alliance's President Dame Pauline Green said: "There are 1,100 people from across the globe here, 350 from Africa. It is no coincidence that we are here. Africa remains a part of the world where co-ops can do more. It is a young and vibrant growing country. Co-ops can help wealth and prosperity for Africa."
Stanley Muchiri, vice-President of the Alliance's Africa region, said he was delighted when Africa was chosen by the global board. The General Assembly has been held in Africa for the first time in its existence of the Alliance. He said: "This gathering gives Africa a huge opportunity to share knowledge and experience from co-operatives across the world. Lessons learned will help us to reposition and focus the co-operative development in Africa."
Mr Muchiri outlined the growth and prosperity across the continent, including agriculture, finance and housing. But he said areas such as consumer and healthcare have been neglected. He told delegates that a co-operative development strategy will be looking at this.
Dr Rob Davies, the Minister of Trade and Industry for South Africa, told the opening session that co-operatives have helped to promoted the development of people and has helped in areas such as unemployment and poverty. But one key challenge that has been identified is the issue of youth unemployment.
Sithembiso Nyoni, a politician from Zimbabwe, said that the co-operative model promotes equality across Africa. She said: "Co-operatives as a model are saying that everybody who is a member is equal — equal votes and equal membership. This is a good model and good in many ways for Africa, since they are a force for democracy and participation. They also help us to democratise organisations and, since co-operatives are value driven, they are helping us to bring their values."
Ms Nyoni added that values of respect, sharing and caring are promoted within co-operatives, which helps to bring together communities throughout the continent.
Added Dame Pauline: "We have the moment, we have the knowledge and the good will and support from those who desire what we desire. We have the strength and voice from one billion people with us. Let us use that slogan that was given to us by the United Nations and show that co-operatives build a better a world."