Cooperatives are catalysts for economic growth and sustainable development for disadvantaged, vulnerable and marginalised communities as well as those with limited resource capabilities, says the Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu.
"The sustainability of these enterprises contributes to poverty alleviation, giving poor people the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty and its associated forms of deprivation," said the minister.
She was speaking at the celebration of International Cooperatives Day in Polokwane, in Limpopo on Saturday.
The first week of July was in 1995 designated as a period to celebrate International Day of Cooperatives by the United Nations. Since then all signatories to the International Labour Organisation Recommendation 193 have committed to celebrating and recognising the role that cooperatives play in the social and economic development of their respective countries.
Cooperatives are important economic players with the top 300 cooperative enterprises constituting the ninth largest economy in the world.
They also operate in some of the most competitive industries like banking, insurance, agriculture and retail, among others. These top 300 enterprises altogether are worth 1.6 trillion US dollars.
"Cooperatives enable people to easily access business and work opportunities, raise savings and extend education and training not only to them, but also to the local communities in which they are operating," explained Minister Zulu.
Additionally, cooperatives hold some of the answers to the pressing socio-economic challenges that confront communities.
"They are, by their very nature, about initiative and self-reliance. Many of our successful cooperatives are an example of how much we can achieve if we seize the opportunities brought by our democracy and freedom to create a better life for themselves and their fellow citizens. We have a responsibility to take our destiny into our own hands."
Cooperatives are the centre of the much-needed village and township economic revival.
"With the support of government, we must ensure that the services and goods consumed in townships and villages are produced by men and women from those townships and villages," she added.
Although progress has been made by cooperatives in terms of growth and development, the challenges that remain need to be addressed.
"Financial and non-financial support given to cooperatives still remains scattered thus making it difficult for cooperatives to effectively access such support easier and much quicker on a wider scale. We are determined to address these challenges."
The minister said she would create an enabling environment for the development and growth of cooperatives.
"We will do this as part of the government's commitment to set the country on a new path of radical economic transformation in order to accelerate our onslaught on the triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment," she said.