23 March 2014

East Africa: MPs Sell Rwanda's Cooperative Model to EAC

Photo: Neil Palmer/CIAT
File photo.

A Bill initiated by the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) to provide a legal framework for creation of regional cooperative societies should borrow a leaf from Rwanda's all-encompassing cooperatives law, lawmakers have recommended.

Parliament last week concluded deliberations on the East African Community Cooperative Societies Bill, 2014, forwarded to all member-state parliaments for scrutiny before EALA debates it.

The standing committees of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate on Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Security examined the Bill.

"We noted that in all these EAC countries, we [Rwanda] are the only ones with a detailed law governing cooperatives that others could use. In other countries, there are diverse laws depending on type of cooperative activity, but ours efficiently captures everything," said Sen. Jeanne d'Arc Mukakalisa, Vice-President of the Senate's standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Security.

Rwanda Cooperative Agency (RCA), under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, was enacted in 2008.

While considering article 52 of the EAC Bill, Mukakalisa said that Rwanda was at an advanced stage because it already has a law establishing RCA.

However, RCA boss Damien Mugabo, said the law establishing the RCA was set according to the country's political orientation and "maybe, our view is not necessarily the same as that of Kenya, or any other country."

"Our law fits into our national policy. For the whole community, it will necessitate considering issues holistically to mind about what is good for everybody. That said however, our law is very modern," he said.

Another element that lawmakers highlighted is the fact that the RCA law allows 16 year olds to be members of a cooperative while the EAC Bill suggests 18.

Parliament proposes that the age be lowered to 16 as embraced in Rwanda's 2007 law determining the establishment, organization and functioning of cooperative organizations, and the 2009 labour law.

Rwanda set the age of 16 because of the post Genocide scenario where many households were headed by children.

"At first, we even wanted to put the age at 14. However, even if other EAC partner states did not go through a similar situation as ours, they probably have very many people under 18 who could work," Mugabo said.

Education Bill:

Lawmakers also discussed the proposed EAC (Education) Bill, 2014 which is entirely about civic education in partner states.

The Bill seeks to establish a unit within the Office of the Secretary General that is mandated with coordinating civic education in partner states, develop relevant educational materials and set standards and quality control measures.

In Rwanda, civic education is conducted by the Rwanda Governance Board, Itorero and the electoral commission. Lawmakers proposed that civic education be carried out by the partner states while the EAC does monitoring and evaluation.

They also oppose creation of the special unit, saying it will impose costs to the Community which is prohibited by article 59 of the EAC treaty.

"It is prohibited to enact a law that would impact on the EAC budget, according to the treaty. There would be an impact since this special unit would have its own staff," Mukakalisa said:

The Bill is expected to be tabled for a second and third reading on April 2 and 3 respectively during the EALA plenary session, in Arusha, Tanzania.

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