The seminar organized by RIPESS aimed to present responses of SSE and its networks in times of crisis, particularly in North America and Africa.

Béatrice Alain, of RIPESS NA Québec, reminds us that in North America, the business models that have become widespread are for the most part aimed only at satisfying the requirements of shareholders, particularly in the case of nursing homes. The situation of these institutions is often precarious. They are managed as business units, contagion is fatal. She points out that in Quebec there are networks of assistance to the elderly that allow for home care and follow-up. However, these networks remain poorly supported, even though 75% of social and solidarity economy organizations respond to community needs. The networks are all the more important since the territories in North America are very vast, making organization difficult.

It is therefore necessary to hold a structuring reflection for the post-crisis period since the current development model is not sustainable and accentuates social inequalities. SSE actors have their full place in this reflection because they can put forward what works differently, and use their networks in order to provide sustainable responses. In Quebec, this social dialogue exists: discussions must now deepen and converge; we can broaden the platform and make it more constructive.

Madani Coumare, from RAESS Africa, reminds us that each continent has its specificities. If Africa is the last to be affected and has so far a lower number of victims, the continent remains poorly prepared. He calls for reinventing the development model based on SSE. In a continent where 2/3 of the population lives from the solidarity economy, the pandemic will have serious consequences. Total or partial confinement will hamper mobility, which is tantamount to a loss of income for these actors.

Elise Pierrette Memong, also from RAESS Africa, stressed the need for advocacy. In Ouagadougou, for example, the markets had to close earlier than usual as part of the fight against Covid-19. But producers in the city and in the surrounding villages need these spaces to sell their goods. Advocacy has made it possible to obtain a revision of the measure on condition that vendors and customers are made aware of the barrier gestures. She also gives the example of negotiations for a reduction in taxes on market products in Burkina, the role of textile cooperatives in Mali in the manufacture of local masks following a request from the President, or the production of chilli peppers and tomatoes from Cameroon, usually exported and now distributed within the domestic market. The pandemic thus reminds us of the need to prioritize the local market, by supporting initiatives for food processing or local rice harvesting instead of imports, in order to reduce dependence on the outside.

RAESS is currently developing advocacy for government support and recognition of SSE organisations as one of the solutions to the crisis. This is all the more relevant today as young people are increasingly involved in cooperative models.

Find the full webinar and discussions here.