Learning to co-operate: youth engagement with the co-operative revival in Africa

Hartley, Sally and Johnson, Hazel (2013). Learning to co-operate: youth engagement with the co-operative revival in Africa. European Journal of Development Research (Advance Online Publication).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/ejdr.2013.39


Co-operatives are seen to offer alternatives for individuals to improve livelihoods. However they have a mixed record, especially in Africa. Initially controlled by the state, many co-operatives did not survive with the advent of structural adjustment policies. However there is now a revival. In parallel, some countries have policies to engage youth in co-operatives. Can co-operatives, as socially-oriented businesses, throw off their history and provide an opportunity for youth? This article examines this question by combining extensive field data from youth co-operatives in Uganda and Lesotho with situated learning and human development theories. It finds that contemporary co-operatives and their networks provide an ‘expanded learning space’ for youth, although there is differentiation by education and gender and type of co-operative. The article makes a novel contribution to debates about co-operatives in development and their potential to provide an alternative route for youth futures.

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