As cooperatives struggle with challenges of lack of skilled personnel to run them, the government has shifted its hopes to universities to provide the needed skills.
The cooperatives that are seen as a driver of access to finance mainly for rural folks are always crippledwith financial and administrative management challenges which affect their operations.
“we need research and academic knowledge in the management of cooperatives and we believe the universities can help us to provide these skills,” Damien Mugabo, Director general of Rwanda Cooperative Agency-RCA said
With their nature and set up which revolves around ownership of members and of which most of these do not have academic knowledge, Mugabo says setting up course are specifically targeting cooperative will help boost their functionality.
“ we can train and build the capacity of the mangers of these cooperatives but they still need professional people to run the day to day management of the cooperatives so that they are profitable,” he added
Fridaus Uwamahoro from CODAR, a maize cooperative in Nyagatare district says that lack of professionals as well as financial constraints to hire expertise cripple their efforts to grow the cooperatives that would help bring back profits for members.
“Cooperatives are bringing our farmers together, but the problem is having people who understand cooperative management to help us make them business oriented,” she said
The government is looking at cooperativesas one way of increasing access to finance mainly to the unbanked populations, increased productionin the agricultural sector as well as a source of credit to micro and household businesses.
The cooperatives have played a key role in organizing farmers in rural areas to improve production as well as increase their household incomes, for example a farmer can access credit to buy basic necessities which he then pays after the harvest.
“As long as cooperatives are management well, they can stir both social and economic growth of the country. This is why it is important to have professional management to run them,” said Professor S.A Chambo from Moshi University of cooperatives in Tanzania.
Indeed, the number of cooperatives currently to over 7000 according to Rwanda Cooperative agency-RCA, something financial experts say would translate into increased rural financial inclusion and poverty eradication.
Nevertheless, there is stilla gap to close by Universities asexperts say there is still a wrong attitude by students to taking up cooperative management courses as they perceive them as less paying courses.
“It is true that some students still think that offering such courses is a waste of time. But we have been sensitizing them and the response is positive,” Dr. Jean Ngamije, Rector Independent Institute of Lay Adventists of Kigali said
Ngamije notes that highlighting the huge employment opportunities that are available in the cooperatives, students picking interest in taking up the course has increased, something that will help in closing the skills gap in cooperatives.