UAE Ministry of Economy partners with ICA-AP to grow the co-op sector

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The Ministry of Economy of the United Arab Emirates has signed a co-operation agreement with the International Cooperative Alliance – through the latter’s Asia-Pacific Regional Office (ICA-AP) – which aims to strengthen the country’s co-operative sector.

The initiative is part of the government’s efforts to diversify the country’s economy and promote co-operatives as a tool to achieve sustainable development.

The ministry also intends to amend the country’s co-operative legislation to help grow the sector and raise awareness of the model. The ICA-AP team will provide support during this process, highlighting best international practices.

ICA-AP will work with the ministry to develop a long-term strategy for the national co-op sector, identifying challenges and suggesting measures to improve its performance.

The UAE is home to 42 co-ops, mostly in the retail sector, running 200 outlets and branches nationwide with a cumulative profit of more than one billion dirhams. The goal is to help set up co-ops in other sectors and increase their contribution to the country’s GDP from less than 1% at present to 5% by 2031.

The agreement was signed on 17 May by Abdullah Al Saleh, undersecretary of the ministry, and Balsubramanian Iyer, regional director, ICA-AP.

“The co-operative sector plays a pivotal role in achieving the goals of sustainable economic and social development for the United Arab Emirates, and is an important tributary to the competitiveness and diversification of the national economy,” said Mr Al Saleh. “To improve its performance in accordance with the best international practices and enhance its role in the new economic model of the country, the country has achieved regional leadership in developing the co-operative model and providing the environment and policies that stimulate its growth.”

UAE has recently allowed the listing and trading of co-operative shares in its financial markets. “We continue our efforts today to complete the development plan for the co-operative sector to take its deserved role as one of the drivers of diversity, sustainability, innovation, high productivity and the transformation towards the future economy in the UAE,” added Mr Al Saleh.

“Co-operatives align well with the UAE centennial pillars,” said Mr Iyer, “which call for the government to be supportive and future looking, building a diversified economy, promoting values in education, and building a happy and inclusive society.

“Through our engagement, we will bring in international experiences, and showcase relevant models from different countries. Our approach will be to help promote the co-operative model, increase awareness, help engage youth and women, build capacity and in the process increase visibility and contribution of co-operatives in the UAE.”