One of the most pressing challenges for the co-operative movement today is how it can engage with and support the aspirations of young people. A new paper, A New Space For a New Generation: The Rise of Co-operatives Amongst Young People in Africa, by doctoral researcher Sally Hartley, highlights some of the innovative ways in which this engagement is being fostered in Africa today and how co-operatives provide not just opportunities for gaining an income but play a vital educational role.
The paper is the result of a joint doctoral programme between the Co-operative College and the Open University, funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council. The development and publication of the paper was also carried out under the Co-operatives for Development programme supported by the UK Department for International Development.
Young people, who comprise 35 per cent of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa, face many challenges and exist at the margin of society economically, politically and socially. They are seen as a financial burden to governments due to the higher needs of providing them with education, and health. In her research, Sally sets out to answer the question of whether co-operatives in Africa can enable young people to form a successful business which in turn can generate income and act as an effective mechanism for collective action. She examines the various ways by which youth benefit from co-operatives including access to user friendly finance, increased income, personal development and different skills. The paper contains case studies on a range of youth co-operatives: Kigayaza Youth Co-operative, JoyFod SACCO and Twekembe Farmers Co-operative (Uganda) and Subeng Dinosaur Co-operative and Rise and Shine Co-operative (Lesotho).