Kampala, Uganda: A boda boda (commercial motorcycle) cooperative in Makindye, a city suburb, has shaken itself off leadership woes to put a smile on faces of members.
Members of the Kampala Civil Centre Boda Boda Transporters Cooperative Society (KCCBT) say they faced tremendous challenges and were choked to near giving up when a new opportunity came in the mold of a non-governmental organisation, The Uhuru Institute for Social Development.
“Our cooperative reached a point where it seemed to belong to a few chosen members, privileged to receive services from the cooperative,” William Mubiru, a former board chairperson for the cooperative, said.
He said the cooperative society was marred by acute lack of transparency and accountability, leaving the noble cause they had started to uplift their livelihood suffocating.
As things went from bad to worse, they were hit by internal wrangles as the leaders jostled for any crumb they could lay their hands on while blaming one another for the mess.
Mubiru himself faced the wrath of the wrangles as he was impeached for incompetence in 2016.
When members finally pushed for accountability and the leaders could not account for the savings, the cooperative activities came to a standstill but was saved by the approach of The Uhuru Institute for Social Development whose two-day workshop proved a timely retrospective for the cooperative members to reflect upon their past mistakes.
Amissi Basoga, a pioneer member of the cooperative, said they have grown amid both challenges and success. He reveals that he was able to acquire his own motorcycle after more than 12 years of hiring.
He says this was possible through the Freedom Fund from Uhuru Institute that has enabled KCCBT members acquire more than 50 motorcycles.
To him, what has kept them together as a cooperative is the solidarity and trust among members which has been reinforced through training and emphasis on savings culture.
Leonard Okello, executive director of Uhuru Institute, taught the cooperators on how to carry on their administrative work. He challenged them to learn from their forefathers who succeeded in building large cooperatives under great strain in the 60s and 70s.
Okello said the future of Uganda depends on cooperatives and the strength of each cooperative lies on its membership.
“Cooperatives and their Board of Directors (BOD) look exactly as its members. So if you let the BOD down, even you as members lose out,” Okello said.
Ssekuluma Amiri Ssebowa, the treasurer of KCCBT, admitted that when they started the cooperative society in 2015 with just five motorcycles, they had no idea how to run it. This came with a leadership challenge.
He says by November 2016 – a few months after the Uhuru Institute workshop, they had saved Shs1.8 million, contributions from the 42 members they had at the time.
Today, they are in thousands targeting over Shs18 million by the end of December 2019.
“You can forget the past but you cannot forget what the past taught you,” reflects Mubiru, who recognizes that they have come from far.
He said this teaches the new leadership to be more transparent, accountable and democratic; saying he has faith in the current leadership of Lasto Ssemakula.