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The Transformative Power of Innovation: Fostering Cooperative Competitiveness Through Innovation

KAMPALA, November 23, 2023 – In an era defined by rapid technological advancements and dynamic social changes, innovations stand as the driving force behind progress. Innovation awards play a pivotal role in recognising and celebrating the groundbreaking efforts of individuals and organisations that push the boundaries of what is possible. These awards not only acknowledge achievements but also serve as catalysts for fostering a culture of continuous improvement and creative thinking.

The challenges faced by cooperatives in the global south, notably in Uganda, in adapting to 21st century innovations are evident. Many struggle to incorporate existing science and technology for enhanced business efficiency, communication, and marketing, ultimately hindering the improvement of the quality of life for their members.

Traditionally dominated by agricultural cooperatives, Uganda’s cooperative landscape witnessed diversification from 1913 throughout the 1970s to the 1990s with the emergence of entities like Village Banks, later rebranded as Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies [SACCOs]. Presently, cooperatives in Uganda span other sectors, including transport, energy, housing, health, environment, and finance among others.

The Diffusion of Innovation theory by E.M. Rogers, developed in 1962, foretells the current predicament. The cooperative movement in Uganda finds itself at a crossroads, facing the imperative of embracing new technological ideas to remain competitive in the 21st century.

Over sixty years later, the cooperative movement of Uganda finds itself at the centre of the theory [not uptalking or uptaking the new idea or innovation], which affects their competitiveness in transacting business in the 21st century, which is dominated by the internet, communication, and information technology embedded with artificial intelligence and robotic sciences.

The challenges with not adopting new innovations developed by the global north are that either you die or you innovate your own ideas aimed at creating solutions to societal challenges.

To address this challenge, there is a pressing need to reboot Ugandan cooperatives and encourage the adoption of new technological ideas. Napoleon Bonaparte’s assertion that “men are led by toys” underscores the necessity of rewarding or awarding innovation to motivate individuals and organisations to innovate.

There is a common saying in Lhukonzo that “Sikilhaba oko yuthewalima,” meaning that the season is never late so long as one has not yet prepared their shamba. Therefore, the delayed adoption of innovations or new ideas in Uganda can be treated through awarding cooperatives that have embarked on innovating solutions for their members and the community, conforming to cooperative principles of ‘community concern’.

The Uhuru Institute for Social Development [TUI]has taken a proactive step by inviting cooperatives to apply and compete for various rewards, including monetary prizes, holiday getaways, hardware, and mentorship. The focus areas include cooperative member development, climate-smart business models, leveraging science and technology, and effective marketing and communications.

According to the statistics reflected on the website of the International Cooperative Alliance, ( accessed in September 2023), over 46.4 percent of the Ugandan cooperatives deal in agriculture, while 4.7 percent are multipurpose cooperatives, implying that their activities cut across all walks of life

Given the prevalence of agricultural cooperatives in Uganda, there is a need to examine climate-smart practices and reward cooperatives that mitigate the effects of climate change. Additionally, in light of security concerns related to cash transactions, cooperatives engaging in banking activities must be encouraged to adopt and promote the cashless economy.

Recognising that cooperatives are fundamentally built on human interactions, offering social services that positively impact members’ lives is crucial for attracting and retaining cooperative memberships and also conforms to the principle of community concern.

Globally, awarding innovators within the cooperative sector serves multiple objectives, including recognising outstanding contributions, earmarking innovations, scaling up commercialisation efforts, creating visibility for cooperative businesses, and inspiring the youth to participate in cooperative innovation.

Innovation awards stand as beacons illuminating the path to a future characterised by progress, creativity, and positive change. By acknowledging and celebrating innovative achievements, these awards not only honor the past but also pave the way for a future where groundbreaking ideas are recognised, valued, and continuously cultivated. As we embrace the transformative power of innovation, we propel cooperative industries forward and inspire a new generation of thinkers and doers to shape a brighter, more inventive world.

Mubale Muke Chrispus is a Multimedia Officer at The Uhuru Institute for Social Development [TUI].

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