Role of Cooperatives in Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) Development in Nigeria: Challenges and the Way Forward
The paper examined the contributions of cooperatives to small and medium scale enterprises (SME) development, identified the challenges and to suggested ways of strengthening this role. The paper argued that SMEs are the key to Nigeria‟s prosperity, but that past efforts by the government to promote SMEs has not yielded the desired objectives. Cooperative societies from their antecedents have not only contributed to the development of small scale business but are in themselves small scale businesses. Cooperatives have always promoted small business development through entrepreneurial development, funding, provision of entrepreneurship, promotion of establishment of small scale industries, promotion of small holder agriculture, etc. But in spite of these efforts, cooperative sector is still faced with several challenges, including lack of adequate funds, illiteracy among its members, lack of training /educational opportunities which make it difficult for cooperatives to contribute maximally in business promotion activities, etc. The paper is of the opinion that more could be achieved if efforts are intensified to address these challenges. Reform of the cooperative policy framework, including legal and regulatory procedures is desirable. Other areas needing attention are capacity building to address the problems associated with management and leadership skills in the societies and the need to strengthen the cooperative governance system.
Key words: Cooperative, SME, Capacity-building. Governance