[PfAL4’s] Donnas Ojok gives a brief history of agricultural co-operatives in Africa and discusses the potential these organisations have for the continent today. 

The agricultural co-operative movement in Africa started around the late 19th century and early 20th century. It thrived during the colonial era – mostly because of the administrative support provided by colonial authorities to satisfy their own interests. This led to an exploitative relationship which was later challenged by a combination of African co-operatives and labour unions leading to co-op and labour reforms towards the end of colonialism. Post-colonial African governments also took deliberate efforts to strengthen co-ops. These were mostly formed by plantation and cash-crop farmers and they prospered, providing employment for thousands of people and offering better market opportunities for farmers’ produce. Unfortunately, the rise of African dictators in the 1970s and 1980s like Mobutu, Kamuzu Banda, Idi Amin, Sani Abacha to mention but a few led to a difficult time for co-ops as these leaders pursued policies which were, for lack of a better word, disastrous to the entire agricultural sector. Amin’s economic war in Uganda is a classic illustration of this point.

Read the full article in the Africa at LSE blog.