KAMPALA, Uganda: Cooperators have been urged to embrace the culture of saving if they’re to lead better lives in retirement.
The call was made during the Cooperative Symposium held at the Silver Springs Hotel in Kampala on Friday. The half-day symposium, held under the theme: ‘Coops 4 Decent Work’ was attended by policymakers, analysts, academicians, and cooperators drawn from across the country.
Addressing participants on planning for retirement, the director communications at the Uganda Retirement Benefits Regulatory Authority (UBRA), Hajji Hassan Nakabale argued that it is possible to rally cooperators to prioritize saving:
“We can change the minds of the cooperators to consider saving for retirement as a priority. Let’s establish & license our own operative voluntary retirement scheme and we save for our old age,” he said.
Supplementing Hajji Nakabale’s remarks, Mr. Sajjabi Geoffrey the Head of Business at the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) called upon cooperators to always think about tomorrow: “Uncertainty will always be with us. You need, as cooperators, to start thinking of how to save for your retirement when you grow old, or pass on.” he advised.
In a country where mandatory savings are often presumed to be the preserve of the formally employed, Sajjabi hastened to warn even those in the informal sector that even they suffer the effects of unplanned retirement: “Even running a business in Kikubo has a limit. Even farmers retire. How are you preparing for that uncertainty,” he mused.
According to NSSF, Uganda has 4million formally salaried workers, 2 million of whom have social security savings. on the other hand, there are 11million Ugandans who remain unsaved. Majority of these remain engaged in the Agriculture sector.
The fund’s Managing Director Mr. Richard Byarugaba told TheCooperator that following the launch of voluntary membership scheme by NSSF in 2017 to recruit clients from the informal sector, the scheme had so far attracted over 19,000 members. As a result, he said, the Fund(NSSF) is currently collecting shs.1.4b monthly in form of voluntary savings.
“This is significant growth from the shs.200m monthly savings which we were collecting less than two years ago. The (Savings)scheme is growing by about 50% annually,” he says.
Byarugaba says the voluntary membership scheme may hit over shs10b from the current Shs.7b. He attributes the scheme’s growing appeal to the new innovations that NSSF has come up with, such as the use of mobile phones for transactions which he says had increased member contributions by over 14%.
The Social Security Fund announced early this year that general NSSF savings had hit shs.1.05 trillion in the 2018/19 financial year, compared to the shs.917 billion generated in 2017/18.
On the state of Occupational Health and Safety in the country, Eng. Odongo Francis Gimoro, the Assistant Commissioner for Occupational Safety and Health in the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development said that government had put in place policies to ensure implementation of Occupational Health and Safety in the workplace, but hastened to add that observing these policies would require the cooperation of everybody, especially employers and employees:
“As Cooperatives, ensure that cooperators you employ are safe from any injuries or risks while at the place of work,” said Odongo. “Employers are supposed to provide a working environment free of risk, and ensure safe and healthy premises,” he added.
He urged the cooperators to acquaint themselves with the various policies and laws that have been put in place to guarantee workers’ safety and security, such as the Workers Compensation Act, the Employment Act, the Public Health Act, and the Labor Unions Act.
The Symposium was organized by the Uhuru Institute for Social Development in conjunction with the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Cooperatives, and the Uganda Cooperative Alliance, as part of the activities to mark this year’s International Day of Cooperatives.