From 30 November to 2 December, small and big organisations from around the world will meet in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria for the “1st Europe - West Africa encounter of the social economy” to consolidate the social economy as an instrument to develop Africa, through the identification of possible commercial exchanges, potential partners and business opportunities.

The Association of Social Economy Enterprises of the Canary Islands (ASESCAN), the organiser of the event together with the local government, also provides training in cooperatives for the illegal immigrants, while they are waiting to be transferred to their countries, in order for them to start a new activity when they return home.

But such programmes can also be found in other places in Spain. In Catalonia, the GEDI cooperative, together with the regional government, has established a residence for young Morrocan immigrants in Barcelona, and has opened an office in Tanger to facilitate the labour reinsertion for the returnees.

In Zaragoza, the Ecuadorian journalist José Vicente Checa created a radio station called “La Super Latina” from his cooperative Fortis - established with the support of the Aragon Federation of Worker Cooperatives (FACTA)-. Checa, apart from helping through journalism to the integration of his community in Spain, is trying to launch various social programmes in Ecuador.

The Madrid cooperative ‘Transformando' (‘Transforming') help immigrants who are holders of a Spanish work permit for them to form a cooperative. “With a work permit, the immigrants cannot set up an enterprise”, explains José María Menéndez, from Transformando. “If they want to do it, they have to change work permit for one of ‘self employed', and this takes about 6 to 7 months. In turn, they can form a cooperative, and we are helping them to do it”.

Transformando not only provides training, but also micro-credit, through the Foundation “Un Sol Mon” (“One World”) of Caixa Catalunya. On the other hand, it manages the project “Lanzadera”, which provides legal coverage to persons who want to launch a professional activity, until they can settle down.

“A welder, a fountainer, or a medical doctor may have found a first activity with something different, and may only get sporadic opportunities to practice his/her own skills, Menendez adds. “Becoming a self-employed would cost him/her too much for the volume of work he/she manages to get. Lanzadera invoices in his/her place, and contracts him/her for the moments in which he/she is active. The immigrants find it really appropriate ”.