By Emma Okonji
Given the importance of cooperative societies as strong grassroots platform for rapid national development through the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), technology experts have called on the federal government to empower the nation’s cooperative societies through capacity building that would enhance speedy growth of SME businesses across all sectors of the economy.
Worried that cooperative societies in the country have been neglected by past governments, the technology experts said their numerical strength of over 14.8 million across the country, represents a strong force that could propel national development, if proper attention is accorded them.
Business Director, Emerging Markets at CWG Plc, Mr. Charles Ibonye and Product Manager, Unified Cooperative Platform Solution at CWG Plc, Mr. Lateef Fadeyi, who made the call during an interview with THISDAY, stressed the need for training and capacity building for cooperative society members across the country and the need to handover the right technology tools that will make them excel and create massive jobs for the country.
“We need government’s intervention to address the challenge of neglect of the cooperative society members. We need government to establish a Commission that will support and regulate the cooperative sector of the Nigerian economy. Government has an obligation to develop the SMEs, especially the cooperative society members to enable them become self-reliant and create more jobs,” Ibonye said.
According to him, if well empowered, cooperative society members can create large number of jobs and contribute immensely to the GDP of the country. If given the right support with the right environment, SMEs, through cooperative societies could be well positioned by government through capacity building and ICT development.
On his part, Fadeyi, who commended the efforts of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in driving cashless economy, however, said that driving financial inclusion strategy would not yield the appropriate results if those at the grassroots level like cooperative societies were not properly trained and empowered.
“With the proposed Commission, government can provide support for members and help them to scale up in their businesses. Empowering cooperative societies is key to national development and government must understand this and provide the necessary support,” Fadeyi said, adding that government needed to support growth of cooperative societies in order to develop the SME ecosystem.
Fadeyi further explained that lack of proper records and data keeping on the part of cooperative societies, would continue to deny its members of government’s support as well as foreign grants. He stressed that the federal government needed to enforce capacity building and skills training among the various cooperative groups, which he said, formed a bedrock for national development.
According to Ibonye, CWG Plc has been able to identify the group know their challenges, and have developed a technology solution that will further empower them to exploit more.
Describing the solution as unique, Ibonye said the mobile app solution, called Unified Corporative Platform (UCP), was developed in-house to enhance financial inclusion drive of the CBN, especially for local traders and rural dwellers.
The solution offers cooperative societies the opportunity to have proper record of their data from a single location and this brings some level of transparency and accountability in business, while creating business visibility. At CWG, we deploy technology solutions to improve growth, he added.
“We have long discovered that members of cooperative societies have been neglected by government to the extent that government do not have appropriate data on them and again, majority of them do not have proper record keeping of their transactions, which makes it impossible for them to get government loan as well as foreign grants and support. In order to address the challenge, CWG developed the Unified Cooperative Platform solution, which is a mobile app solution that will address their challenges and position them for future growth. We are in partnership with the National Cooperative Federation Agency of Nigeria (CFAN) to provide the centralised platform solution that will help cooperative societies manage their operations in a more profitable way,” Ibonye said.