On the Road with NCBA: Meet Andrew
Hi. I’m Andrew. I’m the communications specialist for the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA), and I’ll be guest blogging here at CUNAverse for a little while.
Next week, I’m going to report on co-ops in Mozambique.
This all might seem a little off-topic for a credit union blog, but there is a growing movement to increase the connection between credit unions and the rest of the cooperative movement. CUNA and NCBA have been working closely together for many years and NCBA welcomes this and all opportunities to foster closer ties among all cooperatives. Credit unions have a huge role to play in the struggle to create an economy based on peoples’ needs.
During this trip, I will look at all aspects of NCBA’s work in Mozambique, which is carried out through our CLUSA International program (whose name refers to NCBA’s original name, the Cooperative League of the U.S.A.) In the past 53 years CLUSA International has helped develop co-ops in over 50 countries from East Timor to El Salvador, with a large concentration in Africa.
Mozambique is currently our largest portfolio, with nine projects. After gaining independence from Portugal in 1975, this nation in southeastern Africa suffered an intense 15-year civil war and is still one of the world’s poorest countries. It is quite large, covering an area that would stretch from Georgia to New Hampshire to Ohio, with a population of roughly 23 million people.
Our projects range from helping to launch farmer associations and training farmers to increase production, to creating export opportunities through fair trade and food quality testing. We have also improved the overall framework for co-ops by mentoring a national co-op association and facilitating a new legal framework for cooperatives.
I’ll know a lot more next week, but I want to briefly give some background regarding this last point.
In The International Cooperative Movement, (pp. 134-5) Johnston Birchall observed that colonial governments sometimes used as an instrument to modernize and “civilize” the native people, and that:
The colonial legacy affected co-operative movements in Africa long after the colonial administrators had gone. In some countries…co-operatives were used as an organising base by nationalist movements which then became governments, and so it was natural that they should also see co-ops as an instrument for economic development…but instead of the ideology of progress towards market societies they saw co-ops as being a way of creating a distinctively socialist alternative.
Birchall did not address Mozambique, but from what I’m hearing this dynamic was definitely in play.
“Co-ops” have a lot of baggage, so legal reform was an essential step toward establishing that co-ops are not just an instrument for do-gooders to help out a helpless people. That is not the point here, and I believe that NCBA’s work helping launch the Mozambican Association for the Promotion of Modern Cooperatives is a great companion to the legal reform. Yes, we in the Global North have a lot of resources to share, but we also have to be careful about how we do it and always remember that we are helping.
In any case, there’s no need to worry: I’ll keep an eye out for financial cooperatives of all sorts, and let you know what I find.
This blogging will also be the foundation for an article in the next issue of the Cooperative Business Journal, which should hit the streets in mid-September. I look forward to reading your comments, which will help shape my work on that later writing.