In 2019, we were working to start a SACCO (Savings and Credit Cooperatives Societies) in Nairobi whose members were mostly Kenyans in the diaspora. Everything was on track until we mentioned to the officer from the Commissioner of Cooperatives Office that most members are out of the country. They informed us that the SACCO will not be registered because members need to be physically present for SACCO activities, and must sign attendance in person.

The option for remote participation was ruled out, and couldn’t count as attendance. This was the modus operandi and a requirement by the Registrar of Societies.

Any registered Society in Kenya needed to hold physical meetings (such as AGM) and for the meetings to be legally binding, there were regulations on quorum.

Then the pandemic came. Everything changed.

How COVID-19 changed everything

It was not possible to hold physical meetings, yet the Registrar of Societies demanded that meetings be done physically. This resulted in delays with many societies delaying their Annual General Meetings last year.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the rules that prevented remote participation in meetings were relaxed. Something worth noting is that organizations were given a go-ahead to hold virtual AGMs and others meetings before rules and regulations were crafted to guide the process.

This is something that had been resisted by the authorities before, and COVID-19 came to the rescue.

Looking at the guidelines from the Registrar of Societies, there was no major change that was done to allow virtual and hybrid meetings. The only thing that the Registrar did was to point out a few obvious things, like ensuring that you use an accessible platform, keeping a record of attendants, having a way to vote, etc. With that, organizations are now doing virtual meetings and it is fully legal. April 2021 being the month when many organizations such as SACCOs hold their AGMs, everything is running well.

Digital transformation doesn't need to wait for another pandemic

This raises the question: Why was there no provision for virtual meetings before COVID-19?

Why were Kenyans abroad barred from (legally) participating in activities of their SACCOs?

How comes no one so the need to make this possible until Covid-19?

Part of it is laxity by the relevant bodies.

They never saw the need, and they never thought anyone needed it. It could also be because that is how things had been done in the past, and people will always not see the need for change unless it favors them, or they are forced to change.

When I think about it, I wonder which other useless regulations exist that are stifling growth and development but we retain them because they have been there for ages. We do not need to wait for another pandemic.

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