For the past six years, the Japanese Consumers’ Co-operative Union (JCCU) has been cooperating with the International Labour Office (ILO), especially the Regional Office for Africa (ROAF), the Co-operative Facility for Africa (ILO/COOP Africa), and ILO Office for Japan (ILO Tokyo), in organizing study tour to Japan for African Cooperative leaders with the aim to assist the human resource development of co-operatives in Africa.
JCCU is a member of the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) with which ILO has a partnership agreement. ILO is the only institution under the United Nations (UN) that promotes cooperatives as models to address the economic and social needs of communities. In that relationship, JCCU in collaboration with ILO have been working closely on the formulation of a program to assist the African co-operative movement to strengthen its capacity by introducing the good lessons learnt by the Japanese co-operatives.
The first joint training program was in August 2010 that exposed selected African co-operative leaders to learn about the Japanese co-operative movement and its strongly membership-based approach through lectures and study visits in Japan. The program has since been ongoing (7 study tours) with 33 co-operative leaders including ILO coordinators from 9 African countries having had the opportunity to attend.
Participants visit various Japanese co-operatives in Tokyo and the surrounding prefectures including consumers’, financial, agricultural, university, health and worker cooperatives, among others. The program has always been concluded with a public seminar by the African participants in which people from the Japanese co-operative movement, research institutes, media and African embassies in Tokyo participate. In one of such occasions the Ambassadors of Kenya and Uganda, and the Minister-counselor of Tanzania attended and gave speeches.
A follow-up workshop program was organized by JCCU and attended by the manager of the international department in Tanzania in 2015 to understand more about the environment in which the cooperatives operate in Africa.
This year, three senior co-operative leaders from two African countries, the Republics of Tanzania and Niger took part in the study tour for ten days from August 29 to September 7, 2016. The participants were Mr. Athumani Lali Mahadhi, from the Tanga Dairies Cooperative Union, Tanzania, Ms. Elizabeth Christopher Makwabe, from Kilimanjaro Co-operative Bank Ltd., Tanzania and Mr. Amza Tahirou, from the Federation of Vegetable Grower Cooperatives, Niger.
The study tour consisted of lectures, visits to co-operatives, institutions and discussion sessions.
At the last day of the visit a public seminar was held in Co-op Plaza, JCCU Headquarters in Tokyo on September 7 which was attended by 35 people. Participants gave a brief report about the status of co-operatives in their respective countries, and what they had learned through visits and training of this tour especially how the experience got would lead to the improvement of their organizational management and development of the business after returning home.
With reference to the impact assessment of the tours organized jointly by ILO and JCCU during December 2012 and January 2013 under the supervision of Mr. Sam Mshiu revealed some impressive comments from the former participants of which a few have been introduced below.
- The training changed my attitude and perception of cooperatives and cooperative development.
- I found my participation in the study tour a very useful learning experience and a most rewarding one.
- There comes a time in one’s life when a brief but unique experience can result in a dramatic change of attitude and a paradigm shift.
For assisting the human resource development of co-operatives in Africa, JCCU will continue to offer support for this study tour program, since participants have evaluated the program to be useful and an eye opener that has gone a long way in changing their mindset and broadening their horizon.