Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Small Business Development recently returned from a five day study tour to the Basque region of Spain as well as Madrid. Our purpose was to visit the Mondragon Corporation, Spain’s leading exponent of cooperatives as an organising principle of business, learn from its successes and failures and understand the role government plays in the cooperatives sector.
The development of coops has long been on the South African government’s agenda, but its track record is lamentable. A 2009 DTI study revealed that 88% of coops formed to date had failed. Since responsibility for coops was transferred to the Department of Small Business Development in 2014 their performance has not improved while hundreds of millions of rands have been pumped into the sector to try to kick start it. It remains moribund and lacking direction.