COVID 19, Cooperative Resilience and Social Capital: A Study of Cooperatives as a Stabilizing Force in Sub-Saharan Africa

May 19, 2024
By Judith A. Hermanson, PhD

Executive Summary: The research shows that cooperatives exhibited various types of resilience during COVID 19. Looked at through several lenses, including economic performance, the cooperatives were largely able to hold their own during the pandemic, with no cooperative declining by more than 5% in its Member Business Ratio. The cooperatives in this study were all able to remain economically viable and were strengthened during COVID by being flexible, community and member responsive, innovative, and true to the core cooperative principles. Diverse challenges were faced, including how their activity is viewed through policy in the economic sphere and a significant uptick in demand for membership and services. The resilience was informed by social capital, including trust, loyalty and commitment of leaders and members, which sustained the cooperatives during COVID despite the constraints it created. Many of the external challenges could be mitigated by fine-tuning certain aspects of government policy towards cooperatives and the challenges internal to the cooperatives could be mitigated by intentionally preparing operating modalities that will minimize the impacts of future shocks. From this study of cooperatives that “survived” COVID, we find both the economic and social dimensions of the cooperative model contribute to their resilience. Due to the social capital, cooperatives are a trusted resource on which government and society can depend in times of crisis.

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