On the Road with NCBA: Meet Andrew

This entry was posted by Thursday, 5 August, 2010
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Andrew McLeod

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.

13 Responses to “On the Road with NCBA: Meet Andrew”

  1. Hi, Andrew. Your guest blog is great! NCBA has such an incredibly rich history of overseas outreach. Sets the standard high for co-operative co-operation. I’m just coming in new to the Director-General position at the International Co-operative Alliance and was delighted to read about your upcoming trip. I look forward to reading your later posts. Bon voyage!


  2. Andrew McLeod

    Thanks for the kind words, and for dropping by the blogosphere during what must be a busy time for you. I hope my musings are useful as you settle in to the new job. Best of luck at the helm.

  3. Andrew –

    We’re so excited to have you guest blogging on CUNAverse! I had the chance to sit in on Paul Hazen’s Crash session at The 1 CU Conference and it really became clear to me during his talk how great it would be for credit unions to strengthen their connection with the rest of the cooperative movement. It also got us excited for 2012′s Year of the Cooperative. I’m very much looking forward to reading your blog posts from Mozambique. Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us!

  4. Andrew McLeod

    Thanks for the comment. I hope that my travels help to build this link. I’ve now got confirmation that I’ll be visiting at least one women’s credit co-op, and hope to frame that as part of the bigger picture of co-op development in the country.

    For the record, I’m probably not going to be responding to every comment once I depart Washington tomorrow. Mozambique is still recovering from a two-week telecom outage, so internet is likely to be spotty.

  5. Cindy Turner

    You have my attention Andrew, look forward to keeping up with you. I’ve seen what co-ops can do in Kenya and want to lend support wherever possible. Didn’t expect to see this type of topic on CUNAverse! Just now taking a look at it. Tonight my Kenyan counterpart comes to the States for a 3 month stay and I’m going to share your blog with him too. In Kenya there are rolling black-outs and spotty internet connections so Good Luck with blogging!! Enjoy the scenery, food and beautiful people! Will be checking in.

  6. Looking forward to reading all about your travels, Andrew, and learning more about the development of cooperatives in Africa!

  7. Andrew McLeod

    Cindy: I’m not too familiar with Kenya, but did note that this is one of the countries listed as possible field-trip destinations in the Mozambican co-op association’s strategic plan. More on that in my next post, which will hopefully be up later today.

    Richard: Hi!


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