Suma goes to Durban, South Africa
“Co-operation among Co-operatives – co-operatives work together through local, national, regional and international structures,” is the Sixth of the International Cooperative principles which all coops all over the world are required to follow. (see the ICA website for the other six principles).
At Suma we have always enjoyed our international links and recently we sent one of our members to Durban in South Africa as a member of a Leeds City Council twin towns delegation, sponsored by the Commonwealth Fund.
Bob was exhilarated by what he found. “South Africans have a great interest in cooperatives and their government is investing very large sums of money into cooperative development. In the UK we only hear about our government trying to encourage private businesses but the South Africans are pushing a twin track strategy, cooperatives and small private businesses.”
“ In the past, co-ops in South Africa were used just for poverty alleviation and weren’t proper businesses. Last year Suma hosted a visiting party from Durban and I learned we completely changed their understanding, that co-ops can be independent and successful and democratic businesses like Suma.”
“It was great to meet people working in co-ops, making furniture, contract tailoring, cleaning markets and offices and ‘grasscutting’ co-operatives. The last was a misnomer because they were actually hacking down bush with machetes in a ravine infested with poisonous snakes and aggressive African bees.”
Bob said he was very impressed with the level of organisation and widespread understanding of the need for ‘grassroots’ economic development to generate new jobs. “It made me think we have somewhat lost our way in the UK.”