World history of cooperative societies began in the 18th century. This movement was first began in Great Britain. So, it’s not a surprise that through time the theory of cooperative society found its second life on the territory of future Nigeria and West Africa in general. Although the history of this phenomenon in Nigeria is not so long, as in case of Great Britain, it still has some significant events.
Definition of cooperative society/movement
Before we start discussing our main topic, let’s figure out the real meaning of cooperative society and movement.
A cooperative society is a unit of business organization. From the very beginning, such units were organized as groups of farmers and manufacturers. Today, coops could be organized in various spheres of economic life. The cooperative movement is a worldwide phenomenon with root from Great Britain.
Also, this definition is dedicated to the interstate cooperation. Which means, that cooperative work could be done on each level of the society. Their nature is still the same, it is based on cooperative work of economic and government units for the future wealth of each part of the coop.
History of cooperative society in West Africa and Nigeria
The story of a cooperative society in Nigeria started in the 30’s of the previous century after the legislative unit passed the bill about the creation of this movement. It took a couple of years for the real birth of cooperatives, but from the very beginning, such strategy appeared to be very effective.
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Let’s not forget about hard weather conditions in Africa. It seemed very hard for old-time farmers to cultivate and till the land. Before coops, each farmer was responsible for his part of the land, and only the rich ones could afford hiring additional hands. Others had to rely only on the help of their families, and it was clearly not enough. As a result, we had a situation, where the huge pieces of land were forbidden.
But, the cooperative movement changed the rules. People in West Africa started to group up against this hard situation. But still, these societies were quite small and closed, so they could not beat all the challenges of those times. And let’s not forget about the conflicts, brought up on the African continent during the Second World War. These events certainly threw back in development each African country.
So the next page of cooperative societies refers to the times after the war.
History of cooperative societies after the WW II and ECOWAS
If we are talking about West Africa region in general, before and after the war it was more like the separate states with its own economic experience, left after the colonial period. In addition to linguistic differences, we had huge cultural and political gaps between each country in West Africa.
This tendency became different right after the end of the war. In 1945, the first efforts were made, when the CFA franc was created. This organization had brought all the francophone countries into one single currency union.
In 1964, the president of Liberia, William Tubman came forward with the proposal of the new union creation. This led to the agreement between Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which was signed in 1965.
Nevertheless, we can talk about the real cooperative movement in West Africa only after events, that occurred in 1972. In this year, the Nigerian head of state Yakubu Gowon and his Togolese counterpart Gnassingbe Eyadema started their campaign for the idea of integration. Their huge efforts led to the creation of the progressive cooperative unit.
In 1975, the treaty of Lagos was signed. At first, it was an economic initiative only, but it became much bigger.
This agreement made a birth of one of the biggest African coop organizations — ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States). This unit is still operating, and its main mission is to provide effective teamwork between each country in West Africa. Nowadays leaders of ECOWAS take responsibility for improvement of living conditions for the people, ensuring the economic growth and further development of this part of Africa.
The main idea of cooperative movement is simple and quite logical. It is very difficult to survive by oneself, regardless of whether it is a question of growing crops or providing political programs. But when you have a support from any part of the society, it would be much easier to translate your wishes into life.
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