Meet our experts: Madani Koumaré
Madani Koumaré is President of the National Support Network for the Promotion of the Social Solidarity Economy of Mali (RENAPESS-Mali), Member of the African Network for the Social Solidarity Economy (RAESS), and Member of the Intercontinental Network for the Promotion of the Social Solidarity Economy (RIPESS).
Hello Mr Madani, and thank you for accepting this exchange. To begin with, could you define for us, in your own words, the SSE, and tell us why this definition is important?
First of all, I think it is important to have a universal definition of the SSE so that each actor, each institution can talk about the same concept. In this sense, the draft resolution at the UN for an institutional recognition of the SSE at the international level would be a very good step forward.
Otherwise, coming back to the definition of the SSE, I think that it should take into account all forms of the SSE as well as its local and regional specificities. Indeed, the SSE must be lived according to the realities and specificities of each region: the real economy in Africa, for example, is different from the economy in other regions of the world. The SSE, beyond theoretical definitions and concepts, is also and above all a set of practices, which are based on the knowledge and expertise of SSE actors. For me, the SSE represents a device for the production of goods and services by actors (usually with low or at least limited capacities) in response to the needs of others, all of which are articulated around cultural realities. These are actors who self-organise in response to their own needs and the needs of others.
Another central point about the values and principles of the SSE is that people are placed at the centre. They are the ones who drive the activity and should be at the heart of this dynamic. The SSE also includes principles of human dignity and is closely associated with cultural values (e.g. the activity should be in line with its cult, culture and social environment). Productive activity through the SSE is a way out of dependency, it promotes emancipation and empowerment of workers, and thus restores dignity to women and men. Since the SSE meets the needs of dignified existence, it can be said that the SSE is not a separate economy or a cheap economy. On the contrary, it is a real economy that meets real needs: the goods and services produced by SSE actors are not only intended for a closed circle, but for all markets. In this sense, the SSE has all the characteristics of classical enterprises, which have performance and profitability issues in order to be sustainable.
What are the opportunities and challenges facing the SSE in advancing decent work?
When we say that the values of the SSE are universal, we are looking first of all to put people at the centre of the activity. Transparency, good governance, solidarity, undertaking together: if we manage to produce with all these values, we will promote good working conditions, a good salary and sustainable social security for all.
The SSE principle is to guarantee the enjoyment of and access to education for all, healthy food, a job that allows women and men to care for themselves, be properly housed, be properly fed, be trained, educate their children, have sustainable social security and live in peace. The SSE therefore represents the best strategy to be able to meet all these conditions in a sustainable way and to contribute to the conditions for decent work.
However, there are several obstacles. One of them is the lack of global understanding of the SSE, hence the need for a universal definition. Actions are currently underway to address this issue. However, in general there is a lack of information and training on the SSE: the scaling up and promotion of the SSE at the global level is hampered by the low level of awareness on the SSE among all stakeholders. There is also the weakness of the legal and regulatory framework around the SSE despite the efforts to create conditions for the emergence of enabling legal frameworks and adequate public policies for the SSE.
What role should the states and social partners play in promoting the SSE?
States are in charge of defining and implementing public policies promoting the SSE, as they have the regalian role of passing laws and creating frameworks. However, it is also necessary to create the conditions for the enjoyment and exercise of the SSE by developing or implementing public projects and programmes that promote and support SSE actors through access to training, access to the market, access to inclusive financing schemes. This could be, for example, the provision of capital to support the start-up of enterprises, their development, their access to international markets, etc. On this point, not all countries are at the same level of maturity with regard to the implementation of SSE promotion programmes. In Francophone Africa, many countries are particularly attentive to these concerns and there are already encouraging frameworks.
As for the social partners (who are also included in SSE actors), their role is multiple. They have to ensure the adoption of these policy and legal frameworks, e.g. by setting up sustainable social security frameworks for employers and employees, or by setting up tools and mechanisms for information, training and access to finance. Furthermore, social partners should ensure the implementation of these policy and legal frameworks and advocate for the SSE.
What would be your recommendations for a better promotion of the SSE?
There should be a reorientation of the ways of doing international cooperation. In general, international cooperation should provide solutions based on the needs and concerns of people and populations. It is time to move away from stereotyped cooperation mechanisms (with solutions already thought out) and to offer a response that is truly centred on the needs of the populations. The needs should come from local actors and they should be involved in the design and implementation of international cooperation actions. Local authorities should therefore be included in discussions and negotiations. These actors are key stakeholders in the construction and implementation of SSE, yet they seem to have been forgotten in the consultation process.
In addition, there is a need to play a lobbying and advocacy role so that action plans for the promotion of SSE can find funding, to promote the opening of inclusive funding windows for SSE (e.g. in other UN agencies).