Key figures

Number of cooperatives per sector
Key figures

Research overview


Responding to challenges and existing knowledge gaps facing the cooperative movement, this mapping research seeks to provide exhaustive information on cooperatives around the world.

This is achieved through a process jointly conducted by the ICA and its four regional offices – Cooperatives of the Americas, Cooperatives Europe, ICA Africa, and ICA Asia-Pacific – using a common methodology, designed with the support of external experts from the European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises (Euricse).

Each office collected the input of ICA members present in the countries within its geographic area, by using a common questionnaire, and completing it with relevant national statistics, in order to obtain a picture of the national situation. As a result, the data above is collected following two strategies: 1) a survey targeting ICA cooperative members 2) collecting national statistics already available in the country. The numbers above provide aggregated data from ICA members on the number of cooperatives, as well as the number of cooperative employees and memberships in the country. More methodological information is available in the full report. In Uganda, the data is collected for the reference year 2017.

Mapping out cooperatives in each country provides a more precise picture of the cooperative context at national and regional levels, enhances the movement's visibility, networking, partnerships opportunities, as well as advocacy, and empowers cooperators by providing tools for positive change.

This webpage presents a snapshot of the research results for Uganda. For more information and the full research results, you can download the highlights and the report by clicking on the links above.




Cooperatives in Uganda date back to 1913 when Ugandans started organizing as cooperatives. These early cooperatives operated informally until the first cooperatives ordinance was enacted in 1946. This development also marked the establishment of the cooperatives department as a government entity and the birth of the cooperative movement. By the end of 1946, there were 75 cooperatives organizations with the majority being agricultural marketing societies.




Uganda counts 1 full status ICA member organization, the Uganda Cooperative Alliance (UCA)  and 1 associate member; HealthPartners Uganda

UCA is an umbrella/apex organization for all cooperatives in Uganda established in 1961. It is mandated by the Cooperative Societies Act to consider and make recommendations to Government on matters of policy relating to cooperative movement, make representation to government on matters affecting cooperative societies and to carry out arbitration in case of disputes within cooperative movement.

As of February 2020, the cooperative movement in Uganda comprised of 21,346 registered cooperative societies with an estimated 5.6 million members. This compares with the 10,746 societies registered as of January 2011 based on data from the national statistical office.


Legal framework

Legal framework


The legal framework analysis aims to provide general knowledge of the national cooperative legislation and of its main characteristics and contents, with particular regard to those aspects of regulation regarding the identity of cooperatives and its distinction from other types of business organisations, notably the for-profit shareholder corporation.

It aims to evaluate whether the national legislation in place supports or hampers the development of cooperatives, and is therefore “cooperative friendly” or not, and the degree to which it may be considered so, also in comparison to the legislation in force in other countries of the ICA region, or at the supranational level.

In addition, the research aims to provide recommendations for eventual renewal of the legal frameworks in place in order to understand what changes in the current legislation would be necessary to improve its degree of “cooperative friendliness”, which is to say, to make the legislation more favourable to cooperatives, also in consideration of their specific identity. This webpage presents a snapshot of the legal framework analysis results for Uganda.



The following Laws are the main laws governing cooperatives in Uganda

  • The Cooperative Societies Act Cap 112
  • The Tier 4 Microfinance and Money Lenders Act, 2016
  • The Microfinance Deposit Taking Institutions Act, 2003


Cooperative friendliness


Generally, the Cooperative Societies Act is more cooperative friendly than not, fairly balanced and it allows members to take charge of their affairs with less government interference. Equally, it allows cooperatives to grow by giving them space to thrive, allowing tax exemptions and making it mandatory for societies to apply the cooperative principles.

However, the regulation of SACCOs under the Tier 4 Microfinance and Money Lenders Act, 2016, is a very big obstacle to cooperative development. It fragments the licensing of SACCOs to three separate legal regimes and due to the continued delay to make regulations, SACCOs in Uganda are practically unregulated.


Key recommendations for improvement


The following recommendations are made for the improvement of the national legal framework:

  • Streamlining and realigning the role and powers of the Registrar
  • Expressly recognizing the ICA principles within the law
  • Repeal the parts of the Tier 4 Microfinance and Money Lenders Act, 2016, which apply to SACCOs and bring the management and licensing of SACCOs under the Cooperative Societies Act Cap 112.
  • Reducing the minimum required number of members in primary cooperatives to fifteen from thirty. This will ensure that groups of professionals like lawyers can form a cooperative without struggling to raise the required minimum number of thirty people that the law currently requires.




In conclusion, it is important that cooperatives in Uganda should be uniformly registered, licensed and managed under a single legal regime. There is also a need for training to policy and law makers to enable them understand the uniqueness of cooperatives. Accordingly, the sections in the Tier 4 Microfinance and Money Lenders Act, 2016 that provide for the licensing of SACCOs should be repealed so that the Registrar of Cooperatives is empowered to adequately deal with all matters concerning cooperatives.


The legal frameworks analysis is a tool developed under the ICA-EU Partnership #coops4dev. It is an overview of the national legal frameworks at the time of writing. The views expressed within are not necessarily those of the ICA, nor does a reference to any specific content constitute an explicit endorsement or recommendation by the ICA. 

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