Interviewed by Julian Nabil

Written by Rania Fazaa

Back in the 1930s, the Egyptian cooperative housing had emerged to provide affordable residences for a large segment of local citizens. With a noticeable advancement made in this regard, and as a step forward, Egypt aims to be part of the Cooperative Housing International (CHI), which is one of the eight sectoral organizations of the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA).

Invest-Gate sits with President of ICA Ariel Guarco, on the sidelines of the third International Conference for Cooperative Housing (ICCH), which took place from December 1 to 4, 2019. Guarco discusses the alliance’s vision, while also sharing his insights on the housing coops as an economic and social solution to informal settlements and vagrancy. He also sheds light on Egypt’s efforts in the cooperative movement, with a special focus on the housing sector.

Can you tell us more about ICA and its objectives?

In 1895, ICA kickstarted in England, coming with 28 cooperative members. However, it now represents more than 1.2 bn cooperative members worldwide, with around 310 organizations from 109 countries.
Fundamentally, our main goal is to unite, represent, and serve cooperatives worldwide, while also promoting and supporting the alliance’s member organizations in a way that improves the global coops.


In what ways are cooperatives part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development? What progress did the alliance achieve so far?

The 2030 agenda, approved by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, often refers to cooperatives as diverse private sector actors. For 2030, ICA is developing coops by raising awareness on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), suggest ways to contribute to these targets, and track progress on-board. Additionally, we are the only alliance that has an advisory entity inside the United Nations (UN), which is the biggest status that any non-governmental alliance can ever attain.


How had cooperative housing evolved worldwide?

In the past, cooperative housing was somehow related to communism as we started to see this type of housing during the First Industrial Revolution. Likewise, proof that this method worked out is the increasing number of beneficiaries over the years.


Which country marked a remarkable improvement in cooperative housing?

Sweden is the foremost country to achieve considerable and favorable advancement in terms of cooperative housing.


Globally, how does CHI lend a helping hand to those without shelters?

Cooperative housing means the provision of houses for all people, ergo eliminating the obstacles that always hurdle people from having good places to dwell such as obtaining loans.

It is important to note that the alliance does not directly help citizens find homes as such matters need further international cooperation between countries worldwide. Meanwhile, our main role is to find a way to obligate governments to offer suitable residential areas.


What do you think is the biggest challenge to adopting cooperative housing?

In my opinion, the main challenge facing countries when it comes to cooperative housing nowadays is the fact that it does not solely depend on building houses. But instead, it also endeavors to establish a cooperative community.


How has cooperative housing helped sustainable development in Egypt?

Lately, cooperative housing has boomed in Egypt and the number of domestic coops reached 1.4 mn. The country’s immense efforts in implementing this kind of housing will, of course, positively impact the economy and contribute to sustainable development.


How do you find the Egyptian experience in cooperative housing?

On a global scale, cooperative housing is at its advanced stages. However, in Egypt, it is hard to evaluate the current situation as the country is still taking its first steps to deal with the development of this type of housing. For this reason, the Egyptian government requested to be a member of our organization. I believe that the North African state is exerting its utmost efforts to untangle the local housing concerns, but this needs time to be sorted out.


When will Egypt be part of CHI?

The government previously pledged to be one of CHI’s members, yet we are now thoroughly revising the submitted documents to make sure all conditions are applicable, with the final decision likely to uncoil by the end of 2019.

 

To learn more about cooperative housing, on top of getting a grip on ICCH 2019, read pages 15 and 24 at Invest-Gate January issue.