Government does not understand the challenges that cooperatives face, and it should endeavor to focus more on their growth and development, this is according to Too Fresh Produce co-founder Amos Mathebula. The state should also consider prioritising cooperatives when allocating funds for the development of small enterprises, said Mathebula, whose Mpumalanga-based cooperative farms fresh produce.
Speaking to Vutivi News, he called on the government to prioritise cooperatives when distributing funds for various small enterprise initiatives, lamenting that cooperatives were always last in line. “I believe that the government should create a fund solely for cooperatives so that we do not have to be grouped in with SMMEs and other small enterprises,” the farmer said. “This will encourage other people to step up and register their own cooperatives in order to make a difference in communities.”
Mathebula believes that funding specifically for cooperatives will assist cooperatives like his to operate on a larger and more productive scale. “One of the issues we are currently facing is access to finance. We want to buy more land, purchase more equipment, maintain our resources and employ more people, and in order to do this, we need working capital,” he said.
“If the government can focus on cooperatives, then it will be easy for us to access this sort of capital in order for us to achieve these goals.” Mathebula also called on the state to help cooperatives gain access to markets, as this would be one less headache for them. “Access to markets is one of the challenges cooperatives face,” he told Vutivi News.
“One of the things that make it difficult is the red tape that we face in order to obtain certification for things like good agricultural practice. “Sometimes we do not have access to the necessary knowledge in order to assist us in accessing markets, so the government can really do us a great service by helping us in this regard.” The Department of Small Business Development’s Chief Director for Enterprise Supplier Development, Mzoxolo Maki, said that the department strategically wanted to enhance the sustainability of cooperatives.
This would be done by providing them with education and training, access to information, and providing tech and business infrastructure. He made these remarks during the department’s Small Enterprise and Cooperatives Policy Dialogue last week, which discussed policy issues for small enterprises and cooperatives.
“The Department of Small Business Development aims to grow all types and forms of cooperatives and institutions, as well as increase their GDP contribution, employment creation, reduce poverty and aid economic transformation,” said Maki. He also called on cooperatives to identify gaps within the legislation, such as the Cooperatives Amendment Act, and come up with solutions to close these gaps.