Andrew Nyathi

Ashoka Fellow
South Africa,
Fellow Since 1990
Paradise Investment Ltd.


This profile was prepared when Andrew Nyathi was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1990.
The New Idea
Andrew believes in cooperatives; in fact, he believes in most forms of organization that help individuals work together. In his hands, they become marvelous instruments that not only generate jobs and wealth but also educate and empower their members. He is proceeding on three levels at once. First, he is continuing to ensure the success of Simukai, the co-op he founded in 1983. Democratic, stable, and independent, it is a solid, undeniable demonstration that Andrew's approach works. In his words, "It's my credibility."

Second, he has been developing systematic ways of helping other co-ops (and similar partnerships) succeed through his Cooperative Self-Finance Scheme (CSFS). CSFS leverages modest but growing member co-op equity (plus, for an initial four-year period, some borrowed equity) into far larger credit for member co-ops. Further leverage comes from supplier credit. This financial strength belongs to the co-ops; it is built on their equity and their credibility. It frees them from dependence on both politics and donors, leaving the co-ops free to invest precisely as they see fit.

The CSFS not only frees the co-ops from these pressures and gives them the financial freedom to increase their productivity, but it also provides powerful incentives for the co-ops to plan and implement professionally. "We are guaranteeing ourselves. There can be no jokes about repaying." How a co-op is performing relative to plan is an open book to everyone: "We're a family and don't hide things. It is a dismissable offense to hide information."

The CSFS imposes tough admission standards. It insists that each member co-op have a careful and comprehensive business plan. (This planning is so thorough that it considers, e.g., the likely changes over the plan period in the needs of each family within the co-op.) It follows up with effective technical assistance from a CSFS technical team and vigorous and open grading of performance. It provides strong institutional leadership.

With the creation of this second institution, Andrew is giving the demoralized cooperative movement new credibility and hope. More and more co-ops are applying for membership, and recently Barclay's Bank approached the organization offering to join Zimbank as a primary lender.

With this second thrust beginning to take off, Andrew is turning to the third leg of his approach. "If co-ops do not have children, they will not survive. My next job is to help new co-ops (and co-op-like institutions) be born." He will use many of the same techniques that have worked so well on the first two legs.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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