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Canvassing fresh deals for African workers




WITH the pressure of economic challenges mounting and insecurity at an all-time high in most parts of the continent, the need for Africa to forge unity and close ranks has never been so urgent .

And, recognizing that apart from women and children who are recognized as the most vulnerable groups in time of troubles, the next are workers who are endangered in the course of carrying out their duties. As the Boko Haram insurgencies rage on in the North-Eastern part of Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon, a sizeable number of workers have lost their lives while those who lost parts of their body and homes are indeed considered lucky ones.

It is indeed as a result of the obvious disadvantages that the working people of the continent face that influenced the coming together of African workers under the aegis of International Trade Union Confederation- Africa (ITUC-Africa) Human and Trade Union Rights Network which met in Abuja to fashion out way on how the labour movement can contribute to the resolutions of the numerous development and security challenges confronting the continent.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the parley, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, said the revival of the African countries’ economies lie in curbing institutional corruption and involving governments more in economic development and continue to resist neo-liberalism that is encapsulated in privatization policies.

The NLC Chief argued that what is urgently needed is to curb corruption, which is largely promoted by the private sector, to drive development agendas.

He further submitted that promoting neo-liberalism policies on the continent as symbolized in privatization of public assets is anti-development and that such will retard the development of the continent where developed countries will continue to ferry huge profits out of the continent.

His explanation: “The main challenges confronting Africa are socio-economic issues. The issue of corruption, which has reduced resources needed for development in order to create jobs, is at the heart of those challenges. There is an army of large unemployed youths in almost every parts of the continent. As trade unionists, we must find the will to engage our political leaders meaningfully, interrogate the process and try to see those challenges are confronted.”

Wabba highlighted that leaving governance to the private sector has proven to be counter-productive, adding, “the global economic meltdown in 2008 and 2009 started with the private sector has put to bed the theory that only proactive in looking inward for internally generated solution to their economic challenges and come up with developmental agendas that will be able to drive the process of development. In Ethiopia for instance, public service is driving the process of development. Why is the case of the rest of Africa different? The state runs the Ethiopia its airways, powers and telecommunication sector successfully. At the heart of our challenge is corruption.”

Wabba, who called on the Federal Government to summon the much-needed political will to confront the Boko Haram insurgents, decried the loss of workers to various armed conflicts on the continent.
“Armed conflicts and insurgency in Africa in particular and across the world have assumed a new dimension and no country can be said to be safe not even the most powerful. It is true insurgency has assumed a very dangerous dimension in Africa and in West Africa sub-region as well as parts of East Africa. Workers especially teachers and health, have been most affected in countries that challenges with insurgencies.

“In the context of the Nigerian situation, the problem with the north-eastern par of Nigeria where the Boko Haram is fledging is the fact that the political will to respond to the issue effectively when the problem started was not there. The absence of the political will was what actually compounded the issue. The second point is that the military at the time was not strengthened enough to confront the war. The military needed to have the capacity to respond to the issue with political backing. But I think things are changing now especially with the new Chief of Army Staff who physically took charge of the frontline leading troops for more than 50 kilometers walking on foot to dislodge the Boko Haram insurgents.

This is a new paradigm in the engagement against the insurgent. This has indeed reawaken confidence in the locals who are now volunteering valuable information to the authorities on the nefarious activities of the insurgents. What is needed to wrap up the fight is political will, not only on the part of the Federal Government alone, but even within the military.”

The NLC helmsman also debunked the insinuation that the ITUC-Africa is primed to supplant and render the Organization of African Trade Union Unity ineffective on the continent.

“The OATUU is an African union for all African workers that also deal with issues that affect African workers but the ITUC has about 179 million workers who are members from the five continents of the world. The ITUC-Africa is the Africa sub-region that addresses issues that affect African workers within the larger forum of work arena. There are indeed no conflicts between the two organizations as both strive to ensure that African workers are not shortchanged either by government or employers in whatever form. It the duty of the two organizations to protect the interests of workers and the NLC is a member of the two organizations,” he explained.

On his part, Deputy President of ITUC-Africa, Kassahun Follo, an Ethiopian said corruption must be fought frontally while government must take prominent role in businesses.

He added: “In China, one can say that there is no much democracy there but there is development. We can have development without democracy and we can have democracy without development. But I think what the people need more is development. In Ethiopia, government has controlling shares in the telecommunication, energy and aviation sectors. Government has a role in to play in the provision of social infrastructure. We should fight against corruption.”

While stating the timeliness of the meeting in providing solution to the myriads of challenges confronting the continent, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Dr Clement Illoh said the meeting be of immense significance to some of the solutions to be proffered might support the on-going efforts of governments in addressing insecurity and threats to peace as well as migration challenges arising from it.

Illoh, who was represented by an Assistant Director in the Ministry, Dr. (Mrs.) Florence Chukwuka, lauded the NLC for the collaboration to critically examine the identified issues with a view to defining roles of trade unions and other state non-actors within the development space.

A communiqué issued at the end of the two-day meeting read by the General Secretary of Africa Regional Organization of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa), Kwesi Adu-Amankwah, said the participants drawn from 25 countries in the continent deliberated on issues that affect workers and contribute solutions toward solving the identified challenges.

The communiqué stressed the need for African countries’ economies to encourage manufacturing heights that give value addition to their mineral and other resources in a self-reliant, trade-orientated, sustainable, safe and secured manner that will lead to shared prosperity, saying the state must be the main driver of the structural transformation agenda for which other actors like the private sector can complement it.

It added: “Furthermore, we are convinced as organized labour that the decent work agenda of employment creation, respect for rights at work, deployment of social protection coverage for all and social dialogue provide spaces for engagement in development processes should be consciously imbibed by the African structural transformation processes.”

The continental union said it welcomed the African Union’s giving effective direction to the structural transformation agenda.

It said: “We commend the development of the AU Agenda 2063, the African Mining Vision and the adoption of the Mbeki panel report on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa, which shows that a conservative figure of US$50 billion leaves the continent annually.”

The pan-African union said it would continue to pressure big businesses and Multinational Companies to pay their fair and true share of tax in countries where their production and profit activities take place, saying, “the financial hemorrhage as a result of IFF continues to harm our economies and people as monies for social spending on education, potable water; health and sanitation; food and nutrition that are real drivers of development are lost because businesses continue to find ways to manipulate tax rules and administrations.

We therefore say ‘stopthebleeding!’ which is our on-gong campaign on halting Illicit Financial Flows from Africa.”

ITUC-Africa called on African governments to desist from the current harmful tax competition practices amongst themselves with the use of sundry and endless incentives, including labour market flexibilities under the guise of attracting Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) as such tax wars are contributing to the race to the bottom.

It urged governments to embrace pro-poor and pro-people tax regimes that are progressive in nature.

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