When RENAPESS, Mali’s nation-wide network for the promotion of social and solidarity economy, was founded in 2003, a youth and employment centre was also opened. Targeting people ages 18-40, the centre aimed to spearhead the movement by raising public awareness about social and solidarity economy. Baba Cissé, who has co-managed the centre since 2011, came to Montreal in early September to attend the Global Social Economy Forum. Cissé, a 38-year-old professor of philosophy from the Gao region and RENAPESS volunteer for 10+ years, spoke to us about his mission.
What exactly does your mandate entail?
To make sure that young people understand and subscribe to the concept of social and solidarity economy (SSE). Young people today are all turning to the private business model. They don’t have this culture of social enterprise. We explain to them that there is an alternative solution to a liberal economy, and that we can work together to start creating collective wealth, make a social profit and redistribute it throughout the community. We are guiding these young people to become social entrepreneurs by steering them towards the community.
You estimate that there are between 10 to 12 million Malians between the ages of 18 and 35 (nearly two thirds of the entire population). How does one reach such a large segment of the population?
We take a three-pronged approach. First, work through associations of student entrepreneur clubs. This in an international movement that we discovered thanks to through CECI. There are now around thirty such associations in Bamako, comprising 587 students. The youngest members are 15-16 years old. This is crucial because SSE has to start from the ground up. Youth need to be introduced to this entrepreneurial cultural. We provide training, take them to visit businesses, attend forums, help them look for funding, etc.
We also work with our regional partners to raise awareness among uneducated rural youth. We help these young people solidify their projects by providing them with training and helping them establish business plans.
Lastly, we advise young graduates on starting up their projects. We direct them toward partners, help them find funding, etc.
Today, we are able to reach a critical mass of youth.
How is your message being received?
Young people appreciate it! We remind them that our families have always worked collectively, in the fields, at the market, etc. Everyone works and the benefits are redistributed throughout the family. This is not a new concept, but capitalism has broken this system. Today, we need to modernize it and re-establish the system in a way that is more organized and formal.
The Global Social Economy Forum (GSEF) took place on September 7 - 9, 2016, bringing together some 1,500 people from around the world to discuss and work on collaboration between local governments and the social economy for the development of cities. The forum was co-organized by the Chantier de l’économie sociale and associate members of CECI.
CECI was pleased to welcome three Uniterra program partners from Mali and Bolivia who work in social and solidarity economy. In addition to actively participating at the GSEF, Madani Koumaré, Baba Cissé and Alicia Canaviri met with Quebec organizations to discuss ways to strengthen ties of solidarity.
Uniterra is a leading Canadian international volunteer cooperation program, jointly managed by WUSC and CECI. It is made possible through contributions from Canadians and funding from the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada.