Mobilising global movement for Africa’s development agenda
Although the African continent has both the human and natural resources to change its under-development toga, but it will need collaborations and partnerships across other continents to achieve a development that is sustainable.
Its history of colonialism and slave trade that saw its young and talented citizens farmed to the United States and other developed countries of the world, must be turned into a veritable strength, owing to the fact the offspring of yester-years slaves are now empowered to look back and contribute to the development of their forebears.
This formed the fulcrum of the submission of the Executive Vice President of American Federation of Labour – Congress of Industrial Organisations (AFC-CIO), Tefere Gebre, at the just-concluded 4th ordinary congress of the International Trade Union Confederation – Africa (ITUC- Africa), in Abuja.
He argued that trade union movement in Africa has the potential to lead the continental renaissance, saying it has tremendous power to influence the future, not only of the continent, but the world.Gebre stated: “As the continent with the richest array of mineral and agricultural resources, Africa is at the centre of the global economy in ways you all know, and in ways the multinational banks and corporations know as well. It is estimated that if you take the value of goods and services along with the repayment of loan debts, Africa gives more to the wealthy countries of the world than it receives in credit or aid.”
However, he decried that the continent does not benefit from the true value of its resources. Gebre, who has his roots in Ethiopia, submitted that Africans need living wages, decent work, and dignity, which can be made possible by the African trade union movement.He added: “There is no doubt that you have the power and the capacity to create a future for African workers that guarantees good quality of life, expanding opportunities, and genuine human cantered economic development. There is no one else. It is entirely up to you. And the American trade union movement understands this, and is with you!”He held that the continent with the richest array of mineral and agricultural resources, is at the centre of the global economy in many ways.
His words: “Therein lies the problem: Africa does not benefit from the true value of its resources. Trade agreements are skewed in favour of the wealthy countries. Multinational companies are looking to make deals to pay little to no taxes, to pay much less than a living wage, if to pay any wages at all, and forcing the nations of Africa to compete against each other for lowest prices on goods and the lowest wages. This is a competition none of us will win.”
Quoting the World Bank report, Gebre warned that if current trends continue, Africa will host 90% of the people in the world living below poverty levels ($1.90/day $42/month). Africa currently is home to just over 50% of the world’s poor.He further maintained that there should be no poverty on the continent, saying, “the continent needs living wages, decent work, and dignity. The wealth is here to accomplish all of that. And it is only the African trade union movement that will make that happen.”He further submitted that it is indeed the African trade unions that won democracy and transparency across the continent, and have stood for good governance and against corruption.
Gebre insisted that the forces oppressing workers are daunting, but the trade union movement has always been up to the task, and have an unrelenting pursuit of solidarity as the key to winning globally.“We have been in solidarity with you brothers and sisters, and we will sustain that commitment to the best of our ability, and that this solidarity is federation-to-federation and union-to-union. When help is needed on unfair trade deals…seek us out.
“When multinationals are fighting unions and exploiting African workers… ask for our assistance. The US trade union movement stands with you for decent wages, against exploitation of migrant workers and labour trafficking or any sort. We will stand with you for genuine economic development that improves the lives of workers and their families.
“The race to the bottom must become a race to the top. No more land grabs. No more odious debt. No more unfair trade. No more child labour. No more slave labour. We cannot afford any of this, in light of the growing challenges of climate change,” he said.Also speaking on global solidarity, the President of Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, USA, Terry Melvin, said the organised labour movement in the United States is willing and ready to commit resources and time to help build a global movement, where people of the African Diaspora, both on the continent and abroad, can unite and fight against global capitalism. He said: “Working with the Solidarity Centre, we at CBTU are on a mission to build bridges and strengthen alliances for the betterment of all workers, in unions and outside of them.”
Stressing why global organised labour must unite in pushing the frontiers of safeguarding workers rights worldwide, Melvin blamed unbridled capitalism for workers woes.“People are moving both in their country and into other countries trying to escape the wicked grasp of capitalism and find a better tomorrow. Our enemies know no boundaries and their wickedness is not contained by nations, governments, or industries. It is time we mirrored this approach and make our fight borderless, make our resistance exist beyond nations, and make our solidarity truly global,” he explained.
He condemned African descendants that are scattered all over the world, ensnared by inhuman slave wage system, saying, “too long the rich, the elite, the wealthy, and the wicked have raped the continent of Africa and its people. Your (Africa) lineage, spread throughout the world in the United States, the Caribbean, South America, Europe, and all over continue to be wage slaves. Continue to be the most exploited. Continue to be the most abused workers. But today at ITUC Africa, we say enough. We say the people who started civilization will no longer be the slaves of Capital. We say Africa will no longer be the true sleeping elephant that has been historically and continually exploited by the world’s wealthy and wicked. Today, we say enough. Today, we say this is a global movement and from America to Africa, from New York to Nigeria, we as workers are one and we, as workers will rise up.”
In his intervention, President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, criticised that unpopular economic policies that place high premium on profitability being promoted by the Bretton Woods institutions is driving up protests and civil unrests around the world, as the working class across the globe is resolute and determined to push back the frontiers of punitive austerity measures.
He said: “This Congress is also taking place at a time when popular protests have for the past few months been rife in many parts of the world. The common denominator in these protests is the resolute will of the people to resist low wages and pensions, adverse labour laws reforms, and punitive austerity robes sewn by International Financial Institutions. The voice of the working people of the world through these protests is very loud and clear; we demand improved working and living conditions, real democracy, real social progress through creation and sustenance of decent jobs.”
While calling for diligent investigation and prosecution of those who used excessive force on peaceful protesters, Wabba declared that the struggle of the past few weeks have shown that ‘a people united can never be defeated’, saying, “Indeed, it is possible to unite and make a difference. We regret the loss of lives and injuries at these protests. He submitted that Africa does not need another loan from Bretton Woods Institutions, and that the continent is not also asking for cheap favours.
“In fact, we demand the repatriation of our stolen wealth stashed away in developed economies. Instead of free trade, we demand fair trade. Africa wants to add value to her raw materials and create jobs for our teeming youth. We want to export semi-finished and finished products for the global market without the overbearing restrictions of trade tariffs, and unwieldy standardization constraints placed by the developed world.”
He argued fair trade is the only way Africa can attract genuine investments on the continent, accumulate capital, industrialize, create decent jobs, bring peace, stop forced migration and beat poverty, disease and untimely death.He added: “Africans want global support and solidarity to institutionalize a democratic culture which epitome is political leadership recruitment that is popular, transparent, accountable and beholden to Africans.”
For the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, the organised labour should not lift workers’ interests above that of national interest.
Buhari insisted that while Nigeria will open her doors to the rest of the African continent, Nigeria expects reciprocation from other African countries.
“We will keep our doors open to Africans in their moments of need as pan-Africanism would remain the centre of our foreign policy. I encourage all of us to rally round the concept of pan-Africanism. I urge us to embrace unity and love in the spirit of true African brotherhood,” he said.
President Buhari, whose address was read by the Permanent Secretary, General Service, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Olusegun Adekunle, urged workers to demonstrate greater zeal in defending the interest of the society in general.His words: “While workers’ representative organizations should continue to defend the interest of workers, we also urge workers’ organizations to demonstrate a greater zeal in defending the interest of the society. This, you can do by showing greater dedication, integrity and commitment to your duties at work.”
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