Building resilience of Kenya’s cooperative sector through capacity building of policy makers and implementers

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By Olga Oyier (Team Lead and Policy & Legislative Affairs Specialist) & Maureen Gitau (Policy & Legislative Affairs Officer),USAID/CLEAR Program

The devolved system of governance in Kenya provided the country an opportunity to implement grassroot-led development programs. This opportunity also revealed the technical gaps at the county government level particularly in the area of public policy formulation and implementation. More specifically, the cooperatives policy and legislative reform process to align with the provisions of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 has been slow in comparison with other sectors despite the efforts by development partners to support this process. It is noteworthy that in spite of this challenge, the cooperatives found a way to navigate the regulatory barriers and continue their operations. In appreciation of the importance of the cooperative business enterprises having an enabling environment to thrive, the need for a harmonized approach to the policy reforms was even more important to minimize disruptions for the businesses.

Therefore, following consultations with the relevant government institutions, the CLEAR Program developed a baseline survey to determine the technical gaps that existed as well as to establish the demand for the Program’s intervention within its mandate. The survey sought critical information to better understand the status and levels of policy formulation skills, understanding and appreciation of the county officer role in creating an enabling business environment for cooperatives to thrive. The findings of the survey from the 33 counties that responded revealed a significant gap in stakeholder engagement, policy development, and drafting skills. The findings of this survey resulted in the development of the Executive Public Policy Making Process (PPMP) training in collaboration with Strathmore University Business School to enhance the capacity of public policy makers and implementers in Kenya, especially targeting the cooperative sector.

County cooperative officers have shown tremendous enthusiasm in their participation in the virtual PPMP training by Global Communities in collaboration with SBS. Despite internet connectivity challenges and competing priorities; on average, 85% of the participants have reported increased understanding of the requirements of the devolved cooperative function as provided for in the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010.

In full appreciation that the public policy process is not linear, the overall objective of the training is to build the capacity of the county government officials and providing them with requisite skills to formulate inclusive and enabling cooperative policies and legislation. Additionally, this would provide an avenue for them to serve as trainer of trainers and enable them to empower cooperative members on their right to public participation in order to add their voices in the policy process.

Cooperative members’ participation in the policy making process supports the cooperative sector as a vehicle of resilience, especially through the COVID-19 pandemic, as members are able to contribute to the formulation of inclusive and sustainable policies that affect their businesses. This also presents an opportunity for the societies to be enlightened on regulations that sometimes unintentionally limit the development and growth of cooperatives and in turn, they are able to document their concerns to the local authority in an organized fashion. This is anchored on a robust public-private dialogue structure at national and county government levels.