According to the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), a cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations, through jointly owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.
The first semblance of the modern cooperative society was formed during the industrial revolution when a group of 28 cotton mill workers pooled their resources to buffer the harsh economic conditions brought about by increasing industrialization.
Around 1830, several co-operative societies started springing up, most of them failing, it was not until 1844 that the Rochdale Society of Equitable pioneers developed the so-called “Rochdale Principle” which then became the cornerstone of the modern cooperative society.
Before the advent of modern cooperative societies however, traditional co-operatives have existed in Africa. Known as “Adashi” by the Hausas, “Dashi” by the Nupes, “Asun” by the Ishans, “Osusu” by the Ogojas, “Ajo” by the Yorubas, and “Isusu” or “Etoto” by the Ibos and Ibiobios.
The modern cooperative society movement began in Nigeria in 1933 when the colonial government setup a panel to study in details the cultural, geographical, and economical conditions of the country with a view to recommending the types of cooperatives most suitable to Nigerians. The panel’s findings and recommendation resulted in the cooperative society’s ordinance of 1935.
Notable amongst the cooperative societies in Nigeria that sprang up during that period was the cooperative union of Western Nigeria (CUWN) which by mid-1953 has helped register 483 co-operative societies in western Nigeria. CUWN is today known as the Odu’a Co-operative Alliance.
Fast-forward to today. Although statistics vary but anecdotally there are over 40,000 co-operative societies in Nigeria, supporting millions of people. What we have done with Armony, the leading cloud-based cooperative society management software in the country is to study history and analyze the metamorphosis of cooperatives over time. We have also worked with some of the largest societies in the country for over 5 years using all their feedbacks to develop this very robust cooperative society software. We are glad to say this innovative, well researched cooperative society management software will lead the next phase of cooperative society development in Nigeria and in Africa at large.